The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Here’s a common mistake that even the most experienced HR pro could make: An employee submits an ADA reasonable accommodations request that lists a serious-sounding condition as the disability that should be accommodated. Without further investigation, you start talking about possible accommodations. If that’s your approach, you’re missing out on an opportunity to delve deeper into whether the employee is, in fact, disabled under the ADA.

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According to a study sponsored by several Minnesota-based women’s business groups and executive search firm Spencer Stuart, Minnesota is second only to New York and Illinois in female board membership among its publicly traded companies.

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One of the worst things you can do after you terminate an employee is change the reason for ending the employment relationship. Instead, decide on a defensible rationale—a performance problem or rule violation, for example, or perhaps a business downturn—and document that decision and all the supporting evidence.

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Employers don’t have to provide a disabled employee with an indefinite leave of absence when the employee has a medical emergency and doesn’t know how long it will take to return. As long as the employee isn’t covered by the FMLA (in which case, she is entitled to 12 unpaid weeks of leave), you can terminate the employee without violating the ADA.

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Employees who take FMLA leave are entitled to their former jobs or equivalent ones when they return to work. But sometimes employers that operate many locations move employees around to cover for the employee on FMLA leave. They may not want to move those employees again. Can the returning employee be assigned to another location?

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Here’s a reminder for all your supervisors and managers when they are interviewing and selecting potential employees. Tell them they must never promise a job before getting approval. Doing so may mean a lawsuit if the applicant relies on the promise to his detriment.

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When you settle a lawsuit involving discrimination or some other employment matter, you typically want that to be the end of it. But what if the former employee applies for an open position? Avoid a second lawsuit by including a condition in the settlement that bars the employee from ever seeking employment with the company again.

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Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Ohio State recently conducted a study to determine whether local laws requiring complete or partial smoking bans in bars and restaurants drive away customers, causing workers to lose their jobs. Bar and restaurant owners, who generally oppose smoking bans, have long argued that’s exactly what happens. The verdict?

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Members of the military have greater on-the-job protection than many other employees—including the right to return to their former jobs following a period of active-duty service. They also have the right not to be terminated or otherwise punished for being part of the armed services and taking military leave.

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The recession is taking a heavy toll on Minnesota jobs, and the state’s 8.8% unemployment rate is higher than the national average. Duluth and St. Cloud had the highest unemployment rate in the state—9.8%. The nationwide unemployment rate was 8.1%.

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