The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

In employment law, the adage that two wrongs don’t make a right is true. Don’t make the mistake an em­­ployer recently made when a super­­visor apparently favored members of his religion in hiring. It terminated them without providing a legitimate, performance-related reason.

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Employers sometimes think it’s too dangerous to fire a worker who has recently returned from FMLA leave. But don’t let fear of a lawsuit keep you from making a reasonable and necessary business decision. Just make sure the employee’s use of FMLA leave didn’t motivate the discharge.

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Under Minnesota’s workers’ compensation laws, employees who file workers’ comp claims are protected from retaliation. The law says employers can’t punish employees for seeking benefits. But some employers have been trying to preempt so-called protected activity when an em­­ployee is injured at work.

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You can’t prevent every lawsuit over a discharge, but you can be prepared. That preparation includes making sure you can point to solid, performance-based reasons for every termination. Lay the groundwork first with a performance improvement plan (PIP) and you will be well on your way to showing the court your decision was based on objective, measurable business reasons rather than some kind of prejudice or discrimination.

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Q. We have an employee with a disability who has requested to work from home part time as an accommodation for her disability. Are we required to grant this request?

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Q. We have seen that some companies are requiring their employees to agree to arbitration rather than a release of claims in their separation agreements. Is this an alternative worth exploring?

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Q. We hired an employee just a few months ago, so he does not qualify for leave under the FMLA. He has requested intermittent time off to care for a family member. We would like to allow him to take the time off, but we aren’t sure how to handle the situation outside of the FMLA. What is your advice?

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Bring Your Own Device programs have taken off—but what are the legal issues and security problems you need to be aware of?

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Hostility isn’t the same as discrimination. Proving it requires an affected employee to show both subjectively and objectively that she endured ridicule or worse—not just that her supervisor was unfair or even discriminated.

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Supervisors sometimes enforce rules in a biased way or discipline members of a protected class more severely than others. But HR can stop this discrimination dead in its tracks with an internal informal audit. Regular monitoring (and fixing any problems you find) may be the best lawsuit-prevention tool around.

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