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The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Beware breaking wage-and-hour laws if you employ drivers who cover expenses for the vehicles they use to make deliveries. If your hourly rate minus those expenses yields a figure lower than the minimum wage, you may be violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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A Minnesota court of appeals has ruled that ex-employees who are collecting unemployment can have their benefits reduced if they are due to receive commissions from their former employers.

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With so many companies focused on downsizing to contain costs in a down economy, many employers have failed to prepare for a pending change that will significantly alter workforce demographics. Beginning in 2011, the first of the baby boomers will turn 65. As the rest of the roughly 70 million baby boomers follow, we’ll see a major shift in the age of our society—and our workforces. This shift will have a significant impact on employers.

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Is your organization a subsidiary of an overseas company? If so, you may have to warn managers who are used to a different set of rules that comments about age preference can lead to trouble.

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Here’s a potential electronic communications problem you may not have considered. An employee who forwards e-mail from a company computer and e-mail account to his personal address may end up using those e-mails later in litigation against the company. That’s one reason it makes sense to prohibit employees from forwarding e-mails to their personal e-mail accounts.

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Employees sometimes think that just calling in sick is enough to put their employers on notice that they need FMLA leave. That’s simply not the case. In the following case, the 8th Circuit concluded the new language in the FMLA means employers aren’t obligated to guess about an employee’s need for FMLA leave based on behavior.

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Some work environments are more at risk than others for sexual harassment to develop and fester. And those employers have a special obligation to look for harassment—and stop it. For example, if a few women now hold jobs traditionally performed by men, make sure the women aren’t being subjected to sexually demeaning or offensive conduct.

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Employees who complain about discrimination are protected from retaliation—but not from every consequence of their complaint. Take, for example, what often naturally occurs when someone files a harassment complaint that turns out to be unfounded or unworthy of drastic action like firing the alleged harasser. There’s bound to be backlash from other employees …

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An employee who has been discharged may go looking for some underlying reason other than poor performance to explain why she got the ax. And she may suddenly remember incidents that now seem awfully a lot like sexual harassment. Your best defense to such charges is a robust harassment and discrimination policy that tracks every complaint.

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The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in late September upheld a lower court ruling that the National Football League cannot suspend Minnesota Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams for violating the sport’s drug policy.

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