The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

A decision by a panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals may mean changes are coming for employers accused of tolerating racial bias. Two of three judges on the panel concluded that an employer wasn’t liable for a series of co-worker comments that were arguably racist.

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Here’s some food for thought: Failing to stop an employee from harassing women and men alike may be legally acceptable, but is probably still ill-advised. An employer that allows such conduct may escape legal liability, but that tolerance may make the workplace unattractive to good employees. Plus, it probably won’t be as productive as it would be with good anti-harassment policies in place.

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Watch out if you’re contemplating a layoff that could involve employees who have recently returned from active duty in the armed forces. If those employees missed any training, and you plan to use training as one of the criteria for deciding which employees to retain, you run the risk of violating USERRA.

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To deal with a down economy, employers sometimes cut employee pay. A significant pay reduction may be grounds for an employee to quit and collect unemployment.

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The National Labor Relations Board has filed unfair labor practices charges against Edina-based Regis Corp., which operates hair salons nationwide under the Regis Salons, Cost Cutters, Supercuts, MasterCuts and other brands. The NLRB alleges that the company’s CEO intimidated employees into signing a pledge not to join a union.

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Some government employees mistakenly believe an employer can’t punish anything they say because the U.S. Constitution gives them the right to free speech. They’re forgetting that free speech has limits. For example, their speech is protected only if it touches on matters of public importance. And it is not protected if the speech occurs as part of their jobs.

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Not every employee who loses a job through no fault of his own is eligible for unemployment compensation. About 40 job classifications are ineligible—most of them highly compensated or policy-making positions.

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The EEOC has sued U.S. Steel—with Minnesota operations in Hibbing, Ishpeming, Keewatin and Mountain Iron—because the company’s policy of randomly testing probationary employees for alcohol allegedly violates the ADA.

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USERRA provides returning soldiers, sailors and other service personnel with additional employment rights that other employees don’t always enjoy. One of those is the right to remain employed unless fired for just cause. In effect, USERRA temporarily turns what were once at-will employees into employees with job protection.

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Citing a projected rise in health insurance costs following enactment of the health care reform law, 3M has announced it will soon drop retirees from its own health coverage and instead pay them to sign onto Medicare-backed insurance.

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