The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

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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A decision by a panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals may mean changes are coming for employers accused of tolerating racial bias. Two of three judges on the panel concluded that an employer wasn’t liable for a series of co-worker comments that were arguably racist.

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Here’s some food for thought: Failing to stop an employee from harassing women and men alike may be legally acceptable, but is probably still ill-advised. An employer that allows such conduct may escape legal liability, but that tolerance may make the workplace unattractive to good employees. Plus, it probably won’t be as productive as it would be with good anti-harassment policies in place.

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Watch out if you’re contemplating a layoff that could involve employees who have recently returned from active duty in the armed forces. If those employees missed any training, and you plan to use training as one of the criteria for deciding which employees to retain, you run the risk of violating USERRA.

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To deal with a down economy, employers sometimes cut employee pay. A significant pay reduction may be grounds for an employee to quit and collect unemployment.

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The National Labor Relations Board has filed unfair labor practices charges against Edina-based Regis Corp., which operates hair salons nationwide under the Regis Salons, Cost Cutters, Supercuts, MasterCuts and other brands. The NLRB alleges that the company’s CEO intimidated employees into signing a pledge not to join a union.

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Some government employees mistakenly believe an employer can’t punish anything they say because the U.S. Constitution gives them the right to free speech. They’re forgetting that free speech has limits. For example, their speech is protected only if it touches on matters of public importance. And it is not protected if the speech occurs as part of their jobs.

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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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