The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Employers that develop clear, fair and transparent hiring processes seldom have to worry about losing a failure-to-hire lawsuit. That’s true even if they end up using so-called subjective reasons for not hiring a candidate. Simply put, judges are impressed when it looks like a potential employer bends over backward to ensure it doesn’t discriminate.

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You may have noticed a slight chill in the air recently. For the second time this year, ICE has notified 1,000 employers that it plans to inspect their Form I-9 records. Whether your company has received a Notice of Intent to Audit or you have been lucky enough to avoid one until now, it is important to understand how a NOI may impact your organization.

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Now is the time to review your return-to-work policies and practices for employees on leave. They need to be integrated without regard to the reason that prompted leave. Treating workers differently depending on the reason for their absence opens the possibility of a disability discrimination claim.

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In today’s tough economy, it’s sometimes necessary to terminate em­­ployees. That may be especially true when new technology makes it easier to perform some tasks, reducing the need for employees.

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Employees who quit after being told they may be terminated aren’t eligible for unemployment compensation. That’s especially true if quitting provides another benefit, such as the ability to use the employer as a reference.

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Employers get lots of leeway when it comes to terminating employees. For example, courts generally uphold firing someone for breaking a rule as long as the employer reasonably believed the employee broke the rule—even if it turns out he did not. But when it looks as if the employer tried to trick the employee into breaking a rule, judges won’t look the other way.

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Employees who take FMLA leave to deal with their own serious health condition are entitled to reinstatement to their jobs or substantially identical ones when they return. But what if the employee isn’t ready to come back after 12 weeks? In that case, employers don’t have to reinstate the employee—at least not under the FMLA.

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Few reasonable employees like working in an unpleasant environment where co-workers call each other names and generally treat each other with disrespect. They may, however, ignore such conduct to avoid rocking the boat. But supervisors who don’t put a stop to it risk a hostile environment lawsuit. That’s why you should consider adopting a civility policy that demands employees treat each other with respect and bans insults and other boorish behavior.

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Here’s something to remember when you’re worried about firing someone because you might get sued: Judges don’t want to run HR departments. As long as HR acts honestly and believes the employee should be fired because she broke a company rule, chances are a lawsuit won’t ­succeed.

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Employees who have been fired generally qualify for unemployment benefits unless they were terminated for misconduct. But “misconduct” is broadly defined. It can even include rude or snippy behavior that shows an employee doesn’t really care.

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