The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

An employee who has been discharged may go looking for some underlying reason other than poor performance to explain why she got the ax. And she may suddenly remember incidents that now seem awfully a lot like sexual harassment. Your best defense to such charges is a robust harassment and discrimination policy that tracks every complaint.

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The Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act says, “Before requesting an employee to undergo drug or alcohol testing, an employer shall provide the employee with a form, developed by the employer, on which to acknowledge that the employee has seen the employer’s drug and alcohol testing policy.” Does that mean the employee has to sign the form immediately before the test is administered?

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Employees who complain about discrimination are protected from retaliation—but not from every consequence of their complaint. Take, for example, what often naturally occurs when someone files a harassment complaint that turns out to be unfounded or unworthy of drastic action like firing the alleged harasser. There’s bound to be backlash from other employees …

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Some work environments are more at risk than others for sexual harassment to develop and fester. And those employers have a special obligation to look for harassment—and stop it. For example, if a few women now hold jobs traditionally performed by men, make sure the women aren’t being subjected to sexually demeaning or offensive conduct.

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If you’re looking to remedy past discrimination by adopting employment policies that encourage minority hiring, watch out! You may be vulnerable to a reverse discrimination lawsuit. That may be true even if your policies resulted from a court order to address discrimination.

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Most employers have policies in place to prevent or stop sexual harassment by supervisors and co-workers. Today, that isn’t enough. The reality is that you must also protect employees from customer or client harassment. Unless your sexual harassment policy addresses such harassment, you may find yourself facing a jury trial.

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You have to handle plenty of serious employee gripes about benefits and harassment. But as shown by a new CareerBuilder survey of 2,600 HR pros and hiring managers, you also have had to deal with some truly offbeat complaints. Some highlights:

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A federal court hearing a Minnesota case has concluded that the amendments to the ADA that were enacted in 2008 are not retroactive. That means you don’t have to worry that employees will sue over alleged violations that occurred before the amendments were passed …

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Employees who take their full 12 weeks of FMLA leave and can’t return to work lose their FMLA job protection. But that doesn’t mean they’re not still protected by the ADA. In fact, if an employee who can’t yet return to work asks for a reasonable accommodation—such as additional time off or a reduced schedule until she is ready for full-time work—you should consider the request.

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Employees sometimes think taking FMLA leave—or even just asking for the time off—protects them from being disciplined or discharged. Not so. Employers are free to discipline or discharge employees if they can show they would have taken the same action even if the employee never asked for or received FMLA leave.

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