The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Until recently, people employed in small businesses owned by their close relatives weren’t eligible for unemployment compensation. However, in late 2008, the Legislature changed the law to allow benefits if the relative had worked for the business for at least 16 quarters and earned more than $7,500 per quarter.

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The best estimates are expected to show that Minnesota’s unemployment insurance fund spent about twice what it took in during 2009. With state unemployment running at about 7.6%, the state has paid out approximately $1.6 billion in benefits in 2009, but only taken in about $850 million.

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As the recession continues, many employers have had to turn to reductions in force as an unfortunate yet necessary cost-saving measure. Count on some of those former employees to sue. Employers considering implementing RIFs must understand the legal and practical issues that can trap the unwary. Taking these four steps can minimize the risks of lawsuits:

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These are tough economic times and lots of employers find themselves having to make difficult financial decisions. When those decisions include shutting down a store or branch location, employees who lose their jobs may be eligible for unemployment. But when former employees collect unemployment, unemployment insurance costs go up for employers. One way to cut your potential unemployment comp liability is to offer the employees a transfer to another location.

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A nationwide hobby and gift store chain will pay $35,000 into a supplemental needs trust account for Julie Tufts, a former employee of the Hobby Lobby store in Rochester.

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In the past, employees who quit their jobs because they had to relocate when a spouse was transferred were not eligible for unemployment compensation. That changed when Minnesota amended its unemployment compensation law to get more federal stimulus money.

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Many medical conditions aren’t disabling, so they don’t qualify for protection under the ADA. That’s because they don’t actually impair a major life activity like walking, breathing, taking care of oneself or working. But sometimes employers mistakenly believe that a medical condition is disabling when it’s not. If they express those beliefs, they may make themselves vulnerable to a “regarded as disabled” lawsuit.

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Freshman Sen. Al Franken has scored his first legislative victory. Joining forces with Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu, Franken proposed an amendment to the recently enacted Defense Appropriations bill that bars defense contractors from requiring employees to use arbitration to resolve workplace discrimination complaints of sexual assault, harassment or other Title VII violations.

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It’s a serious mistake to wrongly classify employees as exempt when they should be designated as hourly workers eligible for overtime. Be especially wary of one of the most common errors: Applying the exempt administrative classification to employees just because they perform nonmanual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the company.

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If you believe an employee has been stealing from your organization, you may not have the time or resources to launch an investigation worthy of "Law and Order." If it’s your consistent policy to terminate those accused of stealing, fire away.

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