The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Some work environments are more at risk than others for sexual harassment to develop and fester. And those employers have a special obligation to look for harassment—and stop it. For example, if a few women now hold jobs traditionally performed by men, make sure the women aren’t being subjected to sexually demeaning or offensive conduct.

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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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Technological breakthroughs have enabled Minnesota’s Department of Labor and Industry to identify and fine more employers that fail to carry the proper workers’ compensation coverage. Preliminary figures show that the department fined 516 Minnesota employers for having insufficient coverage in fiscal year 2009, up from 210 in FY ’07.

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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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Employees who take their full 12 weeks of FMLA leave and can’t return to work lose their FMLA job protection. But that doesn’t mean they’re not still protected by the ADA. In fact, if an employee who can’t yet return to work asks for a reasonable accommodation—such as additional time off or a reduced schedule until she is ready for full-time work—you should consider the request.

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One good way to eliminate discrimination lawsuits is to have the same manager who hired an employee also handle the termination if you need to let the employee go.

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