The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Few reasonable employees like working in an unpleasant environment where co-workers call each other names and generally treat each other with disrespect. They may, however, ignore such conduct to avoid rocking the boat. But supervisors who don’t put a stop to it risk a hostile environment lawsuit. That’s why you should consider adopting a civility policy that demands employees treat each other with respect and bans insults and other boorish behavior.

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Here’s something to remember when you’re worried about firing someone because you might get sued: Judges don’t want to run HR departments. As long as HR acts honestly and believes the employee should be fired because she broke a company rule, chances are a lawsuit won’t ­succeed.

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Employees who have been fired generally qualify for unemployment benefits unless they were terminated for misconduct. But “misconduct” is broadly defined. It can even include rude or snippy behavior that shows an employee doesn’t really care.

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New regulations implementing the FLSA are now in effect, and they mark a significant change in federal wage-and-hour rules—and how the DOL enforces them. The new regulations were created to make FLSA regulations consistent with changes driven by other applicable federal laws. Be mindful of these new regulations and the additional burdens they impose.

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In late June, days before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a massive class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination at Walmart, home elec­tronics retailer Best Buy opted to settle a bias-based class-action suit of its own. Nine employees will split $200,000. Their lawyers will get $10 mil­lion.

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Here’s something to remember when your attorneys are negotiating a settlement agreement in a pending lawsuit or other claim: As soon as you and the other party agree to an offer, a contract is formed and the terms are binding. That’s true even if the agreement hasn’t yet been signed.

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Minnesota employers may be finding fewer qualified applicants to fill their available job openings. The labor shortage isn’t because the state’s economy is suddenly booming again. It’s because employers in neighboring North Dakota are dipping into the Minnesota talent pool.

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Government entities that employ fire­fighters face thorny Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) problems. The law requires overtime pay for fire­fighters who work more than 204 hours in a 27-day period. But that can get complicated when a local agency assigns its firefighters to battle wildfires for the state.

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An employee who reports a serious safety hazard and stops coming to work after the employer refuses to fix the hazard may collect unemployment benefits. But that’s not true if the employee doesn’t give the employer a chance to remedy the problem and just quits out of fear.

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Ordinarily, when an employee receives a reprimand that doesn’t carry negative consequences, courts won’t consider the reprimand an “adverse employment decision.” As a practical matter, that means an employee can’t base a discrimination lawsuit on a simple reprimand. But that doesn’t mean an oral reprimand can’t be retaliation.

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