The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

According to the EEOC, White Way Cleaners discriminated against a female worker when it first moved her from the cleaning line to the front counter during her first pregnancy and then again when it terminated her after learning she was pregnant again.

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Employees sometimes think taking FMLA leave—or even just asking for the time off—protects them from being disciplined or discharged. Not so. Employers are free to discipline or discharge employees if they can show they would have taken the same action even if the employee never asked for or received FMLA leave.

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Employees who take their full 12 weeks of FMLA leave and can’t return to work lose their FMLA job protection. But that doesn’t mean they’re not still protected by the ADA. In fact, if an employee who can’t yet return to work asks for a reasonable accommodation—such as additional time off or a reduced schedule until she is ready for full-time work—you should consider the request.

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Disputes between co-workers and between employees and their bosses are almost inevitable—which is why every HR professional must know how to gather the necessary facts to find out what’s going on. Whether it is a small inquiry or a weighty investigation into serious allegations of misconduct, being deliberate and intentional about an investigation will create a more helpful and less disruptive process.

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Sometimes it’s best to scrap the metrics and go with your gut—even in the stats-happy world of professional sports. So far, the Minnesota Vikings are glad they did. Given Brett Favre’s remarkable season thus far, it’s probably a good thing that, before signing him, they didn’t pay any attention to a Bizjournals survey that ranked him 34th out the 36 NFL quarterbacks in 2008, when he played for the Jets.

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A University of Minnesota study of sexual harassment shows that female supervisors are more likely to be harassed than women with no supervisory duties. More than half of the female supervisors who responded to the survey reported having been sexually harassed on the job. But only 30% of women with no supervisory duties reported harassment.

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You are no doubt familiar with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It prohibits various kinds of discrimination and also spells out tight deadlines for when employees must file complaints with a state discrimination agency or the EEOC. But there is another avenue employees can use to get into federal court, as long as race is at the core of the discrimination claim: Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act.

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Pregnant women have many legal protections under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the FMLA. They rarely, however, qualify as disabled. That’s because normal pregnancies may create temporary difficulties, but they’re not severe enough to count as substantial limitations …

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Do you require employees to sign an agreement to arbitrate workplace disputes as a condition of employment? If so, you don’t lose the right to force the case into arbitration if you don’t ask for it during an EEOC investigation.

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Employees are entitled to work in an environment free from religious harassment, and employers should treat such harassment just as seriously as they do any other kind of harassment. Do that by promptly investigating complaints and fixing any problems you discover. What you don’t want to do is ignore religious harassment.

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