The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Employers may be surprised to learn there is a growing movement to add the unemployed to the list of people who belong to a protected class. If leaders in the U.S. Senate and the EEOC have their way, it may no longer be legal for em­­ployers to show a preference to hire only those who are currently employed.

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Note to small employers interested in avoiding unnecessary hassles—and lawsuits: If you receive an EEOC or local employment discrimination agency complaint, don’t assume or admit that you have enough employees to be covered by the law.

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Recently, the IRS unveiled a new Voluntary Classification Settlement Program, which allows eligible taxpayer employers to voluntarily reclassify workers as employees for federal employment tax purposes. The program features partial amnesty for past misclassifications. Even so, the recent government crackdown on worker misclassification continues to cause significant risk for employers.

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Using its power under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefit Security Administration has taken over the 401(k) plan of the Northland Inn in Minne­apolis after the hotel’s owner ceased operations in 2009.

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Courts often have little patience for disorganized, incomprehensible lawsuits. Those cases are often filed by pro se litigants, who act as their own lawyers in court. Their rambling legal documents often make for difficult trials, so judges have frequently decided to toss them out. But now the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has told lower courts to rethink that approach.

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A federal judge has ruled that an em­­ployee who lost one ADA discrimination case because the court found she wasn’t disabled can’t sue again, claiming that she is disabled.

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Here’s a tip that can save you time and money: When you receive a notice that an employee, applicant or former employee has filed a Title VII discrimination lawsuit in federal court, always double-check whether the employee has already filed an EEOC complaint or a Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) complaint (with the box for joint EEOC filing checked).

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Three state agencies—the Minne­sota departments of Commerce, Pub­lic Safety and Natural Resources—face nearly identical EEOC lawsuits claiming they discriminated against workers based on their age.

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When an employee files for bank­­ruptcy, he’s supposed to list any claim he has against an employer as an asset—for example, a lawsuit that requests monetary damages. But what happens if the employer files for bankruptcy? Does the em­­ployer have to list any claim against it as a liability?

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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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