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The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

One good way to eliminate discrimination lawsuits is to have the same manager who hired an employee also handle the termination if you need to let the employee go.

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Employees sometimes think taking FMLA leave—or even just asking for the time off—protects them from being disciplined or discharged. Not so. Employers are free to discipline or discharge employees if they can show they would have taken the same action even if the employee never asked for or received FMLA leave.

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Employees who take their full 12 weeks of FMLA leave and can’t return to work lose their FMLA job protection. But that doesn’t mean they’re not still protected by the ADA. In fact, if an employee who can’t yet return to work asks for a reasonable accommodation—such as additional time off or a reduced schedule until she is ready for full-time work—you should consider the request.

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Technological breakthroughs have enabled Minnesota’s Department of Labor and Industry to identify and fine more employers that fail to carry the proper workers’ compensation coverage. Preliminary figures show that the department fined 516 Minnesota employers for having insufficient coverage in fiscal year 2009, up from 210 in FY ’07.

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When employers discipline employees following an argument or other confrontation, getting the facts straight is crucial. Recent case: Kevin Phillips, who is black, was fired after he got into a fight with a white supervisor. Another supervisor witnessed the incident. However, Phillips was the only one involved who was punished …

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Here’s a wage-and-hour problem that may trip up Minnesota employers: Employees who have to pay their own travel expenses may end up making less than minimum wage. Allowing this to happen when the expenses exceed $50 may also violate Minnesota’s prohibition on deducting more than that amount for employee expenses.

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According to the EEOC, White Way Cleaners discriminated against a female worker when it first moved her from the cleaning line to the front counter during her first pregnancy and then again when it terminated her after learning she was pregnant again.

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Disputes between co-workers and between employees and their bosses are almost inevitable—which is why every HR professional must know how to gather the necessary facts to find out what’s going on. Whether it is a small inquiry or a weighty investigation into serious allegations of misconduct, being deliberate and intentional about an investigation will create a more helpful and less disruptive process.

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Sometimes it’s best to scrap the metrics and go with your gut—even in the stats-happy world of professional sports. So far, the Minnesota Vikings are glad they did. Given Brett Favre’s remarkable season thus far, it’s probably a good thing that, before signing him, they didn’t pay any attention to a Bizjournals survey that ranked him 34th out the 36 NFL quarterbacks in 2008, when he played for the Jets.

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A University of Minnesota study of sexual harassment shows that female supervisors are more likely to be harassed than women with no supervisory duties. More than half of the female supervisors who responded to the survey reported having been sexually harassed on the job. But only 30% of women with no supervisory duties reported harassment.

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