The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Employees have tight deadlines for filing discrimination complaints. But the clock doesn’t start ticking on those deadlines until the employee knows he’s been fired. If you’re terminating someone, be sure to make that clear!

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If an employee gets a certification showing he has a serious health condition under the FMLA, you can request a second, independent assessment. But if the second opinion says the condition isn’t serious, that’s not the final word. FMLA regulations require a third opinion as the tie-breaker.

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3M Companies appears poised to settle a high-profile age discrimination suit. Earlier this year, the company filed a joint motion for preliminary ap­proval of a class-action settlement involving approximately 7,000 workers. If the Ramsey County District Court agrees, the employees (and their attorneys) will split $12 million.

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The DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Admin­is­tra­tion (EBSA) has sued Parkland Hotel Investors—once one of the Twin Cities’ biggest commercial financiers—in an attempt to distribute the company’s 401(k) assets to 96 former employees who participated in its retirement plan.

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Employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement can’t claim additional quasi-contractual rights, as the following case shows.

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Employers aren’t obligated to honor religious accommodation requests if doing so would significantly hamper operations or inconvenience co-workers. For example, accommodating a request for every Sabbath day off could effectively invalidate a collective-bargaining seniority system and create a real hardship for the other employees who would have to work instead.

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Many employers think expectant ­mothers can take FMLA leave only for childbirth and baby bonding. They don’t realize that any medical appointments and pregnancy-related illnesses are also eligible for FMLA leave.

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Employers in highly technical fields sometimes sponsor immigrant workers and help them secure work visas and eventual “green card” status as permanent resident aliens. When those visas are set to expire and it appears the employee may not be able to renew the work authorization, employers aren’t discriminating on the basis of national origin if they elect to terminate the employee.

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The Supreme Court’s decision in Thompson v. North American Stainless underscores the need for employers to take proactive and thoughtful measures to prevent retaliation claims. Follow these practices to help avoid retaliation claims—not only from employees who have engaged in protected activity, but from those closely associated with them.

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The Equal Pay Act requires the same pay for women and men doing the same work under similar working conditions and requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility. But the law provides several ways for employers to defend pay disparities. Wage differences can be justified if they are based on a seniority or merit system, or vary depending on the quantity or quality of production.

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