The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Employees who claim they quit be-cause their employer wouldn’t address harassment or discrimination are eligible for unemployment compensation benefits—if they gave the employer a chance to remedy the situation.

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Generally, if an employer gives an employee consistently good reviews, courts will view that as evidence that the employer was satisfied with the worker’s job performance. An employee who alleges discrimination or retaliation can then use those good reviews to show that something else must have been the reason for a sudden discharge.

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Noting that health care workers are more than four times more likely than other employees to experience workplace violence, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a new website to help health care providers curtail violence at work.

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Some workers think that anytime their employer criticizes an emotional state or suggests therapy, the employer is “regarding” them as disabled. Thus, goes the argument, the employer violates the ADA when it tries to intervene.

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Under Minnesota unemployment compensation law, individuals aren’t independent contractors just because the company that uses their labor says they are.

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Q. We have a long-time employee who will accumulate the necessary points under our retirement program to become fully vested in his retirement benefit on his next birthday, which is in April. At that time, the employee will be 63 years old. He has not talked about how long he intends to continue working or his plan for retirement with our management team, which is concerned about having enough time to transition the employee’s work in the event that he abruptly retires. Can we ask this employee about his retirement plans without creating a claim of age discrimination? (Of course, the employee is also having performance issues, and management would prefer that he retire upon vesting in the retirement program.)

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Employees who quit generally aren’t entitled to unemployment compensation. Unless something occurred that would compel a reasonable worker quit, employees won’t get benefits.

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You don’t necessarily have to fire someone who committed a single act of sexual harassment—as long as the conduct wasn’t truly outrageous or continuous. Sometimes, it’s fine to issue a reprimand and then monitor the employee to ensure the situation doesn’t recur.

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Q. An employee brought to the attention of his supervisor that a co-worker had posted a comment on social media saying that her supervisor is Scrooge, that the supervisor is probably planning to fire a bunch of people right before the holidays, and that everyone should complain about her unfair behavior so that the supervisor is the one who will get fired. The company has a social media policy that prohibits making disparaging comments about it or its employees. Can the company discipline the posting co-worker for these comments?

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Q. At our company holiday party, which was not at the workplace or during work hours, an employee told some inappropriate jokes and put an arm around a co-worker who did not appreciate it and complained. The company is aware that the employee took a leave of absence for treatment of chemical dependency and is concerned that the employee might have been drinking at the party. Can the company discipline the employee? The company would like the employee to get additional help for chemical dependency.

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