The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

If you don’t have accurate and up-to-date job descriptions, you’re probably courting trouble—especially if an employee develops a disability and wants a reasonable accommodation. That’s because what an employee considers a job’s essential functions may not jibe with your assessment.

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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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Let’s say you have fired someone for breaking company rules, conduct so severe that the police get involved. What should you tell people who call later, looking for references on the former employee? The truth!

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Protesters have been picketing some of Minnesota’s 50 Chipotle restaurants after the McDonald’s-owned company fired hundreds of workers—mainly Latino—because they lacked proper documentation. The firings followed an audit by ICE officials, which have now expanded to other Chipotle restaurants nationwide.

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Minneapolis-based Target has contracted with a Chicago firm, ComPsych, to provide counseling to workers in several of the chain’s urban stores. The move is designed to help reduce turnover by teaching workers coping skills to deal with family and financial problems that may affect their work performance.

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State law allows teachers with five years on the job and 10 years’ experience to take up to five years of unpaid leave if the school board approves it. For one former Minnesota teacher and athletic coach, that was a deal too good to pass up.

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