The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

With so many companies focused on downsizing to contain costs in a down economy, many employers have failed to prepare for a pending change that will significantly alter workforce demographics. Beginning in 2011, the first of the baby boomers will turn 65. As the rest of the roughly 70 million baby boomers follow, we’ll see a major shift in the age of our society—and our workforces. This shift will have a significant impact on employers.

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Employees who come to HR with complaints about alleged discrimination are protected from retaliation, as are employees who go to the EEOC or state and local anti-discrimination agencies. But what about employees who voice informal complaints? They’re protected from retaliation, too, even if all they did was simply voice concerns about how the company is treating other employees.

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Here’s a potential electronic communications problem you may not have considered. An employee who forwards e-mail from a company computer and e-mail account to his personal address may end up using those e-mails later in litigation against the company. That’s one reason it makes sense to prohibit employees from forwarding e-mails to their personal e-mail accounts.

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Employees sometimes think that just calling in sick is enough to put their employers on notice that they need FMLA leave. That’s simply not the case. In the following case, the 8th Circuit concluded the new language in the FMLA means employers aren’t obligated to guess about an employee’s need for FMLA leave based on behavior.

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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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The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in late September upheld a lower court ruling that the National Football League cannot suspend Minnesota Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams for violating the sport’s drug policy.

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The GAO recently released a detailed report with a set of recommendations to address the persistent, widespread problem of employer misclassification of employees as independent contractors. The report urges the DOL and the IRS to step up enforcement efforts, so now’s a particularly opportune time for employers that have classified any workers as independent contractors to carefully review those decisions.

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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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If your counter service employees share tips customers leave in a tip jar, how you divvy up the money is important. A new case makes it clear that those tips must be counted at the end of each shift and shared among the employees who worked that shift.

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