The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Minnesota employers may be finding fewer qualified applicants to fill their available job openings. The labor shortage isn’t because the state’s economy is suddenly booming again. It’s because employers in neighboring North Dakota are dipping into the Minnesota talent pool.

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Sen. Al Franken has introduced a bill aimed at undoing the Supreme Court’s recent decision in AT&T v. Concepcion, which barred class ­actions in arbitration cases. The Arbitration Fairness Act would prevent employers from requiring applicants and employees to agree to ­arbitration as a condition of employment.

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A lineman for Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy will collect $40 million from Qwest Telephone as a result of a 2004 accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

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Employers are now free under federal law to set the percentage of employee tips that can be placed in a tip pool. But Minnesota employers need to be aware of a crucial difference between federal and state laws.

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Employees who quit because of substantially reduced pay may be able to collect unemployment. However, they can’t merely speculate that a new pay system will result in lower pay.

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Employees sometimes think that employers have to accommodate all their schedule requests. Not usually. Often, employees fired for refusing to work their scheduled hours expect to receive unemployment benefits.

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Government entities that employ fire­fighters face thorny Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) problems. The law requires overtime pay for fire­fighters who work more than 204 hours in a 27-day period. But that can get complicated when a local agency assigns its firefighters to battle wildfires for the state.

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An employee who reports a serious safety hazard and stops coming to work after the employer refuses to fix the hazard may collect unemployment benefits. But that’s not true if the employee doesn’t give the employer a chance to remedy the problem and just quits out of fear.

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Ordinarily, when an employee receives a reprimand that doesn’t carry negative consequences, courts won’t consider the reprimand an “adverse employment decision.” As a practical matter, that means an employee can’t base a discrimination lawsuit on a simple reprimand. But that doesn’t mean an oral reprimand can’t be retaliation.

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Good news for government agencies: People who apply for government work don’t have a property interest in a potential job, even if they make the list of finalists, and others on the list don’t want the job. That’s true even if the hiring committee states it plans to hire someone from the list and then does not.

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