The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Employers may be in for a nasty shock if they assume that an employee who can’t return to work full time after taking FMLA leave doesn’t have the right to reinstatement. If they can perform the essential functions of their jobs on a part-time basis, then employers may have to agree to a reduced schedule.

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People who identify themselves as Native Americans and believe they have been discriminated against may be able to sue based on two distinct claims for the same characteristic. Such individuals can claim discrimination based on national origin or race.

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It can happen to the best manager or HR professional. You discipline or demote an employee, and then, when she files an internal grievance or asks the company to reconsider, you conclude she shouldn’t have been disciplined or demoted in the first place. What should you do?

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Genuine whistle-blowers are protected against retaliation under the Minnesota Whistleblower Act even if the retaliation occurs years later. Caution management to avoid any action that smacks of punishing an employee for instigating or cooperating with a criminal investigation of alleged company wrongdoing.

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Wal-Mart agreed Dec. 9 to pay $54.25 million to settle a seven-year class-action lawsuit with roughly 100,000 current and former hourly employees in Minnesota. All things considered, that was a bargain.

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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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