The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Exotic dancers at suburban Minneapolis’ King of Diamonds club pay the club a fee of $20 to $100 every night they work. King of Diamonds maintains the dancers are independent contractors and “pay for the pole” in order to earn tips. The club does not pay them an hourly wage. Attorney E. Michelle Drake sees things differently.

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In one of its most anticipated employment law decisions in years, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that New Haven, Conn., discriminated against white firefighters when it refused to promote them after they passed a test that most black co-workers failed.

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The Minnesota Legislature recently enacted a law designed to protect employers from some of the legal risks that may accompany hiring people with criminal backgrounds. The law is designed to help those who have served their sentences re-enter society as productive citizens.

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Rather than trying to wage a court fight over what increasingly looked like a losing battle, a local company has decided to settle with an employee who sued to enforce a noncompete agreement he had signed.

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The Minnesota Court of Appeals has decertified a class-action lawsuit brought by 4,900 current and former Minnesota employees of 3M. The suit alleged that company policies, seemingly neutral, actually had a disparate impact on older workers.

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It’s one of the sad realities of today’s litigious world: Even when you win a lawsuit, you’re seldom able to recoup all your legal fees unless you win big. That’s true even if your opponent is the EEOC and it’s clear it didn’t have much of a case to begin with.

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A legal theory often referred to as the “cat’s paw” holds that an employer can be liable for hidden bias if it merely rubber stamps a subordinate’s discriminatory decision. By conducting an independent evaluation of the situation, you can cut off that liability.

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Employees who want to file a discrimination complaint have to meet tight deadlines. They have just 90 days after receiving an EEOC “right-to-sue” letter to start their lawsuits. A perceived threat from an employer —such as a statement that it will “dig up” everything it can about the employee—doesn’t excuse missing the deadline.

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When talking to a former employee’s prospective new employer, are you afraid to provide truthful information or state an opinion? Doing so probably won’t earn you a defamation lawsuit in Minnesota.

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Are you a union employer with a collective-bargaining agreement that touches on labor issues also covered by the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (MFLSA)? Then employees can’t go directly to court without first pursuing a union grievance.

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