The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

The current labor environment provides opportunities for unionized employers to negotiate more favorable collective bargaining agreements. Because of the economic realities affecting U.S. workplaces and the politics of labor unions, employers are finding that unions are open to addressing subjects on which they previously had resisted change.

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Chances are, you have a sexual harassment policy that gives em­­ployees several ways to report har­­ass­­ment—maybe including a hotline for phoning in problems. But beware: An employee may file an EEOC complaint before you even have a chance to investigate alleged harassment. If that happens, your hotline records may play a crucial role in your defense.

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Marathon Petroleum Corp. has paid a $700,000 fine for dumping benzene, a known carcinogen, into an unlined lagoon near the Mississippi River in 2010. Since the incident, Marathon has sold the facility located in St. Paul Park.

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Willmar-based Jennie-O Turkey Stores faces 11 safety violations after a machine at its Barron, Wisc., slaughterhouse cut off an employee’s arm.

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The Minneapolis NAACP has leveled charges of discrimination against the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board. The group claims board practices are biased against minority employees and city residents.

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Sometimes, a new job doesn’t work out—and the new kid on the block is the first to be let go in a downturn. That’s when his previous employer may be in for a surprise.

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If you use arbitration to resolve disputes, now is a good time to have your attorney review your arbitration agreement. A federal court in Minnesota has recently concluded that a valid arbitration agreement may allow collective-action arbitration, even if the agreement itself never mentions the possibility.

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Employees who commit “aggravated misconduct” and are terminated may not be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits. Therefore, some employers may assume that when an employee is arrested and charged with a felony related to work, it makes sense to fire the employee. Not necessarily.

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When training managers and supervisors on how to treat subordinates, make sure they understand they should never make any belligerent statements that could be interpreted as defamation or slander.

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Under the ADA, employees who claim to be disabled must show that their condition substantially im­­­pairs a major life function. Min­ne­sota has its own version of the law. It requires that employees show their condition materially impairs a major life function. That’s a lower standard, but still a tough one for employees to prove.

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