The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

If an employer loses a discrimination case, it typically has to pay the employee’s legal fees and associated costs (plus any damages due). But what if the case is championed by the EEOC and the agency loses? Surely it has the money to reimburse the employer it dragged into court. Fat chance you’ll recoup those costs, if this recent Minnesota case is any indication.

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Like other employers, your organization probably is trying to use employees as efficiently as possible. That may include eliminating some jobs and training employees to pick up additional tasks. You may want to consider creating a cross-training program before deciding which employees to terminate. Those who show a willingness to learn new skills and the ability to perform them well are probably the “keepers” on your staff. Just make sure you offer everyone the same opportunity to learn.

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Train supervisors and managers on situations that could trigger the FMLA leave determination process. The best approach is to suggest they notify HR if an employee calls in sick and implies anything more than “I’m sick today.” If the employee provides any detail that makes it seem likely he or a family member is suffering from a serious health condition, he should be referred to HR to determine if he’s eligible for FMLA leave.

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Some employees are under the mistaken impression that if they complain about anything bad that happens at work, their employer can’t do anything to them, no matter what the circumstances. They think that anything negative the employer does after they complain must be retaliation. Fortunately, that’s not true.

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An employee who requests accommodations can sue for retaliation if he can show that his employer punished him for making the request.

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Call it a missed opportunity. Call it a misunderstanding. Nancy Grozdanich-Lipinski did neither. She called her lawyer. Grozdanich-Lipinski is suing her former employer, Delta Airlines, for violations of the ADA.

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When an employee complains about racial prejudice or harassment, don’t brush it off. Instead, act right away. Even a briefly hostile environment may mean a big award.

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If you’re deciding whether to fire an employee for attendance problems (under a no-fault attendance policy, for example), you must make sure you aren’t counting FMLA leave against her. However, all is not lost if you accidentally add in an FMLA absence—as long as you can show you still would have fired the employee because of other attendance problems.

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The best sexual harassment policy sets up many ways for employees to lodge complaints. Here’s why: Sometimes low-level supervisors don’t take harassment as seriously as they should. If your sexual harassment policy tells employees to complain to their bosses without offering an alternative, they could become frustrated or angry. Plus, the alleged offensive behavior could very well escalate.

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Employers rarely go out of their way to interact with the EEOC, but appliance manufacturer Electrolux is earning kudos for doing just that this summer. Electrolux actively sought the EEOC’s input when dealing with a religious accommodation issue facing Muslim employees at its St. Cloud plant.

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