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The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Good news: Employees who claim to be whistle-blowers protected from discharge for complaining about alleged workplace problems under the Minnesota Whistleblower Act have to do more than make general allegations. A true whistle-blower has to show that his claim, if proven, would amount to a violation of a Minnesota law.

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Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group has agreed to pay $895 million to settle a lawsuit alleging the health insurance company gave executives backdated stocks, a compensation scheme that lined the execs’ pockets but caused losses for investors.

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Good news from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals: If you have a system for employees to call in sick, you can require everyone to use it—even employees on approved intermittent FMLA leave. The trick is to make sure that the employee taking FMLA leave understands she still must call in.

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The first bill signed into law by President Obama significantly expands employers’ exposure for possible claims of discriminatory pay. It’s too soon to tell whether the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act represents the beginning of a new wave of pro-employee legislation. But in and of itself, the law represents a significant development of which careful employers need be aware.

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For several years now, lawyers have been trying to create collective actions by finding one or two angry employees who think they were wrongly classified as exempt employees and therefore entitled to overtime pay. By pairing two or more cases, attorneys try to turn simple litigation into expensive collective-action claims. Now some federal judges are rethinking those cases—and it’s good news for employers.

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Former U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose retaliated against John Marti, a former first assistant U.S. attorney for the district of Minnesota, according to an investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

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Deborah Smith, a former night manager of the SkyWater Restaurant at the Hilton Minneapolis, has filed a lawsuit alleging she was fired for walking in on an orgy involving upper managers in December 2007.

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Employees who can show direct evidence of age discrimination will get their day in court. That direct evidence often comes after someone who played a part in making an employment decision (e.g., helped select a candidate for hire or promotion) makes a careless statement after the fact.

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Ramsey County prosecutors declined to file felony theft charges against Sonia Pitt, former director of homeland security and emergency management at the Minnesota Department of Transportation, finding her conduct in the wake of the deadly I-35W bridge collapse objectionable, but not criminal.

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St. Cloud-based Gold’n Plump has agreed to pay $215,000 to a group of Somali Muslim workers to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC. The company also granted the workers an extra paid break for prayer during the second half of each shift.

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