The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Let’s say you have fired someone for breaking company rules, conduct so severe that the police get involved. What should you tell people who call later, looking for references on the former employee? The truth!

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Protesters have been picketing some of Minnesota’s 50 Chipotle restaurants after the McDonald’s-owned company fired hundreds of workers—mainly Latino—because they lacked proper documentation. The firings followed an audit by ICE officials, which have now expanded to other Chipotle restaurants nationwide.

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Minneapolis-based Target has contracted with a Chicago firm, ComPsych, to provide counseling to workers in several of the chain’s urban stores. The move is designed to help reduce turnover by teaching workers coping skills to deal with family and financial problems that may affect their work performance.

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State law allows teachers with five years on the job and 10 years’ experience to take up to five years of unpaid leave if the school board approves it. For one former Minnesota teacher and athletic coach, that was a deal too good to pass up.

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If an internal investigation reveals that the employee whose complaint launched the process was also engaged in improper behavior (or was, in fact, the person to blame for the situation), don’t hesitate to punish appropriately. As long as you act in good faith, a court is unlikely to conclude the punishment was retaliation for complaining in the first place.

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The Farmington School Board is investigating one of its own. The board recently voted to investigate member Tim Burke to see if he poses a potential liability. Several board members have accused Burke of treating administrators disrespectfully, burdening them with unnecessary data requests and making unfounded accusations against them.

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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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