The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

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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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will be conducting I-9 audits of employers performing work on “critical infrastructure” over the winter months. About 1,000 employers—mainly in defense- and law enforcement-related industries—are being targeted for the audits. The new audit crackdown may be a sign of things to come.

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With so many companies focused on downsizing to contain costs in a down economy, many employers have failed to prepare for a pending change that will significantly alter workforce demographics. Beginning in 2011, the first of the baby boomers will turn 65. As the rest of the roughly 70 million baby boomers follow, we’ll see a major shift in the age of our society—and our workforces. This shift will have a significant impact on employers.

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Is your organization a subsidiary of an overseas company? If so, you may have to warn managers who are used to a different set of rules that comments about age preference can lead to trouble.

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Employees who come to HR with complaints about alleged discrimination are protected from retaliation, as are employees who go to the EEOC or state and local anti-discrimination agencies. But what about employees who voice informal complaints? They’re protected from retaliation, too, even if all they did was simply voice concerns about how the company is treating other employees.

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Employees who quit aren’t generally entitled to unemployment compensation. However, there’s an exception for employees who quit “because of a good reason caused by the employer”—if the employees first give employers a chance to correct the problem. One reason that’s not good enough: a schedule change.

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If your organization uses arbitration agreements to help keep employment disputes out of court, make sure the agreement is drafted to be as broad as possible. Your best bet: Have an attorney write or review the agreement.

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A Minnesota court of appeals has ruled that ex-employees who are collecting unemployment can have their benefits reduced if they are due to receive commissions from their former employers.

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