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The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

For more than a decade, Minnesota courts have recognized a person’s right to privacy. Most employers are aware that this right extends to the workplace, but many still run into potential employee-privacy trouble. But with some upfront planning and consideration, HR professionals can help their organizations avoid privacy pitfalls and still protect their interests.

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A bill before the Minnesota Legislature would allow the state to suspend prevailing wage requirements on state-funded construction projects if November budget projections show a 1% or greater deficit. State prevailing wage legislation is patterned after the federal Davis-Bacon Act, which requires federally funded construction projects to pay the “prevailing wage” for specific job classifications.

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It’s fairly common for someone accused of sexual harassment to counter that, in reality, he was the one who was being harassed. Then he gives HR a detailed complaint and a lengthy list of people to interview. Don’t let this tactic dissuade you. Instead, complete your investigation just as you would any other.

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Because juries are notoriously unpredictable, most attorneys advise doing everything possible to avoid jury trials. Even so, juries often wind up deciding employment law cases because of the subtlety of the issues involved. In the following case, the Minnesota Court of Appeals sent a case to trial so a jury can decide whether taking away an employee’s telecommuting opportunity might be retaliation.

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If you pay employees on a commission basis and allow them to draw against those commissions, be very careful how you word the contract language. If you don’t specify that employees must repay any draws they do not earn back with commissions, they won’t have to.

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Here’s a bit of good news for employers trying to make sure they don’t violate the Fair Labor Standards Act: The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that employees—not employers—have the initial burden of showing they actually worked during unpaid lunch or other break periods.

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There’s a new I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form for employers to complete when hiring employees and reverifying the employment eligibility of certain employees with temporary work authorization. Make sure you have a properly completed Form I-9 for every employee to avoid legal penalties for hiring unauthorized workers.

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The Star-Tribune, one of the 20 largest newspapers in the country, has signed on to a class-action settlement agreement involving two women who filed sexual harassment charges against the company. The agreement was worked out by the EEOC after two women working in the mailroom claimed they were subjected to a sexually hostile work environment.

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OSHA is responsible for worker safety, and it takes that responsibility seriously. It recently won a significant victory in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld OSHA’s right to hold contractors liable for their subcontractors’ safety violations.

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More and more employers are asking their HR staffs to prepare noncompete agreements to prevent employees from taking trade secrets to competitors. Before you pull out a standard form or download one from the Internet, consider the consequences.

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