The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Many employees believe that the FMLA and its state counterpart, the Minnesota Parental Leave Act (MPLA), absolutely prevent an employer from terminating someone who asks for or takes parental leave. That’s not the case.

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Employees who take FMLA leave for their own serious health condition are entitled to return to their former jobs or equivalent ones once their leave is up. But if an employee still can’t perform an essential function of the old job, you may not have to reinstate him.

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When employers get sloppy and don’t document their decision-making proc­­esses, things can get dicey. Consider what happens when an employee experiences work stress and starts taking FMLA and other leave. In one recent case, the employer was smart enough to carefully track its efforts to both accommodate an employee and get her back to work.

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Maxim Healthcare Services has agreed to pay $160,000 to the estate of a Minneapolis nurse who died of cancer, ending a tragic case that highlighted the reach of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act.

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Outback Steakhouse has agreed to pay $1.25 million to Minnesota em­­ployees to remedy what servers at the restaurant chain said was an illegal tip-pooling procedure under state law.

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Here’s a small measure of comfort if your company is caught in a hostile environment scandal involving a single division or facility: Employees who sue for discrimination in other departments, divisions or locations can’t use those cases against you in court unless they were directly affected by that particular hostile environment.

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Independent contractors aren’t eligible for unemployment compensation when their services are no longer needed. But just because you sign an agreement that says someone is an independent contractor doesn’t mean he really is.

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Didn’t receive a copy of an EEOC complaint within 300 days of when you discharged an employee? Ordi­­narily, that would mean you could rest easy, knowing that no lawsuit could arise. But that’s not always the case.

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If you want to fire someone for misconduct, here’s a good reason not to drag your feet on it. If the delay is too long between the alleged misconduct and the termination, the employee may get unemployment compensation.

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Employers will win in the long run if they exercise restraint and use patience when dealing with an employee who clearly is looking for a lawsuit. It will take work.

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