The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

When retail giant Walmart allegedly threatened to fire an employee who advocated for unionizing a store in Hastings, the United Food and Commercial Workers’ union filed National Labor Relations Act unfair labor practices charges. Now Walmart has settled with the National Labor Relations Board.

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Sometimes you realize early on that a recent hire is not going to work out. He may have looked good on paper, but isn’t doing well on the job. It may then be time to cut your losses.

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Employees who are called to active military service have certain job protections, including the right to return to their old or similar jobs. But those rights have limits. The law doesn’t require reinstating a veteran to her old job at the same facility where she worked before if the employer no longer has jobs there.

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Things started out rocky last November for American Building Maintenance (ABM), a nationwide janitorial services conglomerate, when ICE agents busted it for employing 1,200 undocumented workers. Bad turned to worse in January when the EEOC filed a complaint against ABM, alleging race discrimination against black workers hired last fall through a nonprofit Minneapolis employment agency called Emerge.

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The Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, which investigates discrimination charges, has been sued over an allegedly negligent investigation.

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Employers sometimes use independent contractors as a way to lower their benefits and other labor costs. But that kind of economizing can turn out to be quite expensive if a court decides that the independent contractor is really an employee. One of the deciding factors in such cases is how much independence a worker has to control his work. The greater the employer’s control, the greater the likelihood that the “independent contractor” is really an employee.

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While the federal Civil Rights Act contains no outright prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation, that doesn’t mean employers can get away with discriminating against employees who don’t fit society’s stereotypes about how men and women should look. Sex stereotyping may well be sex discrimination because it is based on notions of what is “feminine” and “masculine.”

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The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 was enacted in response to concerns that insurers and employers could use results of genetic testing to discriminate against applicants and employees. Covered employers should consider updating their employment policies and practices to comply with GINA’s many technical requirements.

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If employers tell their employees to show up a little early in order to start their computers and get themselves ready to work, that time should be compensated. That’s true even if the employer doesn’t absolutely demand early arrival, but internal systems make it tough for employees to begin their shifts if they don’t arrive early.

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When employees quit, they often want to remain friends with their former colleagues and clients. Usually that’s fine, but sometimes it’s not in co-workers’ or clients’ best interests. That doesn’t mean, however, that the former employer can get a restraining order against the employee who quit.

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