The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Union-organizing efforts have consistently failed since Delta Air Lines merged with Eagan-based Northwest Airlines. That trend continued last fall when 53% of baggage handlers voted to reject representation by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

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A recent state Supreme Court decision highlights one of the unique problems facing employers: While a pay practice may be valid under state law, it may be illegal under federal law. To ensure they’re in full compliance, employers must be prepared to change their pay practices to conform with the most restrictive law.

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Sometimes, courts are suspicious of an employer’s claim that it conducted a reduction in force if it can’t support the claim with facts and figures. Supply the data and make the court comfortable with your company’s decision.

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Employees terminated for refusing to abide by reasonable work rules aren’t eligible for unemployment compensation. But what constitutes a reasonable rule depends on the circumstances.

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Michael Margulies, a former partner at the Minneapolis law firm Lindquist & Vennum has pleaded guilty to mail fraud, admitting in court that he had embezzled $2.5 million from the firm and its clients. He could face up to 20 years in prison.

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Most employers are well aware that it is unlawful for them to discriminate on the basis of race, gender and other protected classes or characteristics. But what about when a customer demands service on a discriminatory basis? What if a client says she wants to be served only by someone of a certain race? A recent case shows how an employer can run afoul of the law in such a circumstance.

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Give some employees an inch and they’ll take a mile. They stubbornly insist on pushing the rules and argue that if the handbook doesn’t say something is prohibited, then it must be OK. Fortunately, courts don’t often agree.

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The federal labor law can be a trap for the unwary—even for nonunion employers. Even if your employees don’t belong to a union, the National Labor Relations Act applies to you. For example, the National Labor Relations Board recently announced that a nonunionized employer will pay $900,000 to two fired employees to settle charges that it violated the NLRA.

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An IT manager at the Woodbury-based Postal Credit Union has pleaded guilty to scamming computer giant Cisco Systems out of $388,000 by swapping allegedly defective Cisco parts for good ones and then reselling the replacements on the open market.

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Not every employee who loses a job through no fault of his own is eligible for unemployment compensation. About 40 job classifications are ineligible—most of them highly compensated or policy-making positions.

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