The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Some employees think that once they are approved for FMLA leave, they don’t have to follow the same rules as other employees when they’re away from work. That’s not necessarily true. In fact, employers are free to create call-in policies that require employees who are going to be absent to phone daily—and they can include employees on FMLA leave in that policy.

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Some employees may manufacture complaints when they think they’re in trouble at work. That’s why it’s so important to maintain good records of all work problems, discipline and complaints. Employers that can prove they were raising concerns about performance before the employee complained about discrimination or harassment effectively cut the causal link between the complaint and the alleged retaliation.

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If you don’t have accurate and up-to-date job descriptions, you’re probably courting trouble—especially if an employee develops a disability and wants a reasonable accommodation. That’s because what an employee considers a job’s essential functions may not jibe with your assessment.

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Minnesota’s personnel record rules can cause problems for employers that don’t operate primarily in the state. For example, employers that aren’t used to the rules may not realize that employees can challenge the truthfulness of information in personnel records and then sue for defamation.

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Employees who complain about discrimination engage in what the law calls “protected activity.” They can’t be punished for complaining. But not every complaint is protected. For example, when an unhappy employee goes to her supervisor and complains she isn’t being treated fairly, that’s not tantamount to complaining about discrimination.

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Fired employees often sue, alleging that they were treated less favorably than other employees outside their protected class. To prove that in court, employees have to show that the other employees committed the same violation or mistake and weren’t fired. That’s hard to counter if your records aren’t clear and complete.

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When Katie Brenny, a Little Falls native and former state high school golf champion, took a job at the University of Minnesota, she thought she was going to coach the women’s golf team. When that didn’t happen, she called a lawyer who is now threatening a lawsuit.

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A former Mayo Clinic employee has sued the famed Rochester medical center for discrimination under the ADA and the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

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Let’s say you have fired someone for breaking company rules, conduct so severe that the police get involved. What should you tell people who call later, looking for references on the former employee? The truth!

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Protesters have been picketing some of Minnesota’s 50 Chipotle restaurants after the McDonald’s-owned company fired hundreds of workers—mainly Latino—because they lacked proper documentation. The firings followed an audit by ICE officials, which have now expanded to other Chipotle restaurants nationwide.

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