The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

It happens: A supervisor wants to discipline an employee, but HR or upper management nixes the idea because it knows something the boss doesn’t. Perhaps the employee had suffered discrimination in the past and was placed in a new position for a fresh start. Be prepared for legal fallout if you wind up disciplining the supervisor.

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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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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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