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The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

A legal theory often referred to as the “cat’s paw” holds that an employer can be liable for hidden bias if it merely rubber stamps a subordinate’s discriminatory decision. By conducting an independent evaluation of the situation, you can cut off that liability.

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Are you a union employer with a collective-bargaining agreement that touches on labor issues also covered by the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (MFLSA)? Then employees can’t go directly to court without first pursuing a union grievance.

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When talking to a former employee’s prospective new employer, are you afraid to provide truthful information or state an opinion? Doing so probably won’t earn you a defamation lawsuit in Minnesota.

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Since employees get attorneys’ fees when a court determines employers violated their rights, it seems reasonable that employers should get attorneys’ fees when they have to waste time and money on frivolous litigation. It turns out some courts are beginning to entertain such requests.

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Employees who want to file a discrimination complaint have to meet tight deadlines. They have just 90 days after receiving an EEOC “right-to-sue” letter to start their lawsuits. A perceived threat from an employer —such as a statement that it will “dig up” everything it can about the employee—doesn’t excuse missing the deadline.

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Here’s added incentive to handle terminations and other employment actions at the local level. When employees sue, their attorneys often look to expand the lawsuit beyond one person. They’re trying to find larger patterns of discrimination. This strategy can sometimes succeed if higher-ups in the company made the decision and based it on a common policy or framework.

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Employers have an obligation to engage with disabled employees in an interactive accommodations process. But exactly how do you go about proving you complied when the employee says you didn’t try to help? Your best approach is to track all your efforts to accommodate, including every contact with the employee, whether by phone, e-mail, memo or snail mail.

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Conflicts over religious accommodation in the workplace have spilled over into the courtroom, as more and more employees try to force employers to bend work schedules to fit their religious practices. It’s no longer just a question of whether employees are entitled to a day off on the Sabbath. In an increasingly diverse workplace, Islamic practices are spurring more litigation.

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According to a study sponsored by several Minnesota-based women’s business groups and executive search firm Spencer Stuart, Minnesota is second only to New York and Illinois in female board membership among its publicly traded companies.

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One of the worst things you can do after you terminate an employee is change the reason for ending the employment relationship. Instead, decide on a defensible rationale—a performance problem or rule violation, for example, or perhaps a business downturn—and document that decision and all the supporting evidence.

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