The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Give some employees an inch and they’ll take a mile. They stubbornly insist on pushing the rules and argue that if the handbook doesn’t say something is prohibited, then it must be OK. Fortunately, courts don’t often agree.

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The federal labor law can be a trap for the unwary—even for nonunion employers. Even if your employees don’t belong to a union, the National Labor Relations Act applies to you. For example, the National Labor Relations Board recently announced that a nonunionized employer will pay $900,000 to two fired employees to settle charges that it violated the NLRA.

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An IT manager at the Woodbury-based Postal Credit Union has pleaded guilty to scamming computer giant Cisco Systems out of $388,000 by swapping allegedly defective Cisco parts for good ones and then reselling the replacements on the open market.

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Not every employee who loses a job through no fault of his own is eligible for unemployment compensation. About 40 job classifications are ineligible—most of them highly compensated or policy-making positions.

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Some employees think that being the best employee in a division or company means not having to follow the rules. That isn’t true and can be downright damaging to morale. If you decide to fire the employee because of disruptive and uncooperative behavior, don’t worry that he’ll win a lawsuit just by virtue of productivity.

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Some government employees mistakenly believe an employer can’t punish anything they say because the U.S. Constitution gives them the right to free speech. They’re forgetting that free speech has limits. For example, their speech is protected only if it touches on matters of public importance. And it is not protected if the speech occurs as part of their jobs.

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The National Labor Relations Board has filed unfair labor practices charges against Edina-based Regis Corp., which operates hair salons nationwide under the Regis Salons, Cost Cutters, Supercuts, MasterCuts and other brands. The NLRB alleges that the company’s CEO intimidated employees into signing a pledge not to join a union.

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The EEOC has sued U.S. Steel—with Minnesota operations in Hibbing, Ishpeming, Keewatin and Mountain Iron—because the company’s policy of randomly testing probationary employees for alcohol allegedly violates the ADA.

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To deal with a down economy, employers sometimes cut employee pay. A significant pay reduction may be grounds for an employee to quit and collect unemployment.

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Watch out if you’re contemplating a layoff that could involve employees who have recently returned from active duty in the armed forces. If those employees missed any training, and you plan to use training as one of the criteria for deciding which employees to retain, you run the risk of violating USERRA.

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