The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have for years predicted that a virulent influenza outbreak could kill tens of thousands, hospitalize hundreds of thousands and sicken millions. Regardless of how the swine flu crisis plays out, it should be a wake-up call for employers. If you haven’t already, now is the time to undertake pandemic planning efforts.

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The Stillwater School District has agreed to pay a part-time teacher and athletics coach $137,000 to settle age discrimination claims in a lawsuit filed by the EEOC.

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Sometimes, disabled applicants and employees try to insist on a particular accommodation. They expect employers to blindly agree to their suggestions without considering the expense or inconvenience. Don’t fall into that trap.

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Some employees mistakenly believe that, just because they have been diagnosed with a serious condition, they are disabled and entitled to an accommodation. Employers can and should analyze the claimed disability to see whether it really substantially impairs one of the employee’s major life functions. The diagnosis alone is not enough. It’s just the starting point.

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Here’s a trend to watch out for as the economy continues to slow: As companies go out of business, employees sometimes lose access to their retirement funds. It’s not a new problem, but it’s one the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is trying to fix.

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It’s one thing to have to pay a wage-and-hour claim for one or two employees. It’s quite another to have to defend a giant class-action overtime suit. One way to cut the risk that a minor problem will morph into a huge lawsuit is to enforce clear overtime rules.

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Government employees who speak out on matters of public importance and are punished for doing so may be able to sue for unlawful retaliation. They may even be able to make those claims years later—if they can show a connection between speaking out and an adverse employment action.

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Two companies headquartered in Minnesota have made the 2009 Fortune magazine “100 Best Companies to Work For” list: General Mills of Minneapolis and the Mayo Clinic of Rochester.

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Here’s how routine discrimination claims turn ugly fast: A supervisor or manager gets it in her head that she’s going to punish an employee for complaining. While it’s hard for employees to win most discrimination cases, it’s relatively easy for them to win retaliation claims.

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You can learn a lot about an employee during the first few weeks. Missing work then probably means attendance will be a problem later. Having stricter rules during the initial probationary period will help you weed out problem employees.

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