The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

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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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 you’re looking to remedy past discrimination by adopting employment policies that encourage minority hiring, watch out! You may be vulnerable to a reverse discrimination lawsuit. That may be true even if your policies resulted from a court order to address discrimination.

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Most employers have policies in place to prevent or stop sexual harassment by supervisors and co-workers. Today, that isn’t enough. The reality is that you must also protect employees from customer or client harassment. Unless your sexual harassment policy addresses such harassment, you may find yourself facing a jury trial.

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You have to handle plenty of serious employee gripes about benefits and harassment. But as shown by a new CareerBuilder survey of 2,600 HR pros and hiring managers, you also have had to deal with some truly offbeat complaints. Some highlights:

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A federal court hearing a Minnesota case has concluded that the amendments to the ADA that were enacted in 2008 are not retroactive. That means you don’t have to worry that employees will sue over alleged violations that occurred before the amendments were passed …

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When employers discipline employees following an argument or other confrontation, getting the facts straight is crucial. Recent case: Kevin Phillips, who is black, was fired after he got into a fight with a white supervisor. Another supervisor witnessed the incident. However, Phillips was the only one involved who was punished …

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According to the EEOC, White Way Cleaners discriminated against a female worker when it first moved her from the cleaning line to the front counter during her first pregnancy and then again when it terminated her after learning she was pregnant again.

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Here’s a wage-and-hour problem that may trip up Minnesota employers: Employees who have to pay their own travel expenses may end up making less than minimum wage. Allowing this to happen when the expenses exceed $50 may also violate Minnesota’s prohibition on deducting more than that amount for employee expenses.

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