The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

When a St. Paul construction company hired members of the Crookston High School hockey team in 2010 to install drain pipes under the ice rinks at the Crookston Sports Center, it probably seemed like a great community project. In fact, Arena Systems committed the employment law equivalent of three coincidental major penalties.

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A court has decided employees can sue employers for national-origin discrimination based on an unexpected characteristic: the employee’s tribal affiliation. National-origin discrimination lawsuits are usually based on being from a particular country, but belonging to a specific tribe can count, too.

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Employees typically have just 300 days to file EEOC and state discrimination complaints. Otherwise, their lawsuits will be tossed out. But it’s the employer’s burden to prove the complaint was filed too late—not the employee’s burden to prove he filed on time.

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On the June 20 anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 2011 Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision, Sen. Al Franken, D–Minn., introduced the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act, designed to make it easier for employees to file class-action lawsuits.

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When you have several good applicants for a job opening, picking the best-qualified candidate isn’t easy. While you should be as objective as possible, the final decision can have a subjective element. Just make sure you document a good business reason to back up your choice.

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Benedictine Health Services at Innsbruck has agreed to settle a disability suit lodged by the EEOC. Two former employees initially complained that Benedictine required them to be free of medical restrictions before they could return to work from medical leave unless the restrictions were due to an on-the-job injury.

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Minnesota employees can still collect unemployment benefits if they quit their jobs because of medical problems. However, before resigning and applying for benefits, they must ask for accommodations.

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Are you frustrated with an employee who seems to never get the job done right? Before you terminate her, give her plenty of opportunity to improve. Show her what she is supposed to do and document when she doesn’t.

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Some supervisors are more forgiving than others. Many times, that means a marginal employee may never improve until a new supervisor arrives and insists on better performance. If that happens and the employee struggles to rise to the occasion, be careful before you terminate her.

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Employers and employees are supposed to engage in the interactive accommodations process once an employee indicates she may be disabled. If she doesn’t cooperate, document it. You can use that later to show she’s to blame for not receiving an accommodation.

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