The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Given the low cost and the easy accessibility of electronic records storage, many employers are making the digital leap to “paperless” HR. But despite the many benefits of going paperless, a host of legal problems could derail even the best-intentioned digital records plan. Carefully consider these legal issues when transitioning to an electronic personnel records system.

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In the wake of a recession that disproportionately caused job losses in male-dominated fields such as construction, Minnesota women are faring slightly better these days, according to new research by the nonprofit Independent Women’s Forum.

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Good news for Minnesota employers that have been worried about how to pay employees for the time they spend putting on and taking off protective clothing before and after their shifts: Paying overtime as required by federal law generally means no additional payment is due under Minnesota law.

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Employers operate in an increasingly complex legal environment, made all the more difficult by the tough economy. Hiring has emerged as a particular trouble spot. You need to hire and maintain a skilled and productive workforce, but you must watch out for legal liability that can surface in the process.

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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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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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