The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

With technological advances, just about every job involves using computers or computerized machinery. That doesn’t mean an employee whose job it is to repair such equipment is an exempt computer professional. Fixing things like printers and copiers—even the most technologically advanced ones—is hourly work, making the employee eligible for overtime.

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It’s considered protected activity when employees complain about harassment based on ethnicity or other protected characteristics such as sex, race or religion. That means employers can’t retaliate against employees for having filed a harassment complaint. Now a court has clarified the obvious: Promoting an employee isn’t retaliation.

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Employers must follow strict rules if they want to rectify misclassification of employees and make up their unpaid overtime. Don’t expect to just cut them a check and put a note on the paystub.

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Do you worry that starting accommodations for a disabled employee may mean you have to continue them indefinitely? Relax. In fact, a trial accommodation may actually benefit employers in the long run. If the accommodation turns out to be disruptive, impractical or more costly than you thought it would be, you can stop it.

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The union representing workers at the Minnesota Department of Human Services mental hospital in St. Peter has criticized staffing levels after a patient committed suicide by hanging himself. Part of the union’s evidence of understaffing: Patients had to help employees cut down the man’s body.

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Shannon Miller is one of the most successful coaches in NCAA women’s hockey history, but the University of Minnesota-Duluth concluded she and her all female coaching staff were a luxury it could no longer afford. Citing budgetary reasons, UM-D announced it would not renew their contracts.

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The FMLA is supposed to protect employees from losing their jobs when they can’t work due to a serious health condition. Minor maladies such as colds, headaches and body aches usually aren’t enough to merit protected leave. That’s true even if the employee goes to a doctor and gets a prescription, unless the health care provider also tells the worker to return within 30 days for a follow up or otherwise actively monitors the illness.

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Target, the country’s third largest retailer, has announced it will cut 1,400 jobs from its Twin Cities’ headquarters. Falling sales, losses from an unsuccessful expansion into Canada and last year’s massive data breach have been cited as reasons for the downsizing.

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Be sure your job announcements list minimum qualifications applicants must have. That way, if someone who lacks the right background sues, the case can quickly be dismissed.

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Employees who are forced to work under conditions that leave them little choice but to quit can still sue, alleging they were constructively discharged. You can prevent those suits by transferring the employee who says he is being harassed to another equivalent job.

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