The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

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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Beware breaking wage-and-hour laws if you employ drivers who cover expenses for the vehicles they use to make deliveries. If your hourly rate minus those expenses yields a figure lower than the minimum wage, you may be violating the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Here’s a potential electronic communications problem you may not have considered. An employee who forwards e-mail from a company computer and e-mail account to his personal address may end up using those e-mails later in litigation against the company. That’s one reason it makes sense to prohibit employees from forwarding e-mails to their personal e-mail accounts.

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