The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Because juries are notoriously unpredictable, most attorneys advise doing everything possible to avoid jury trials. Even so, juries often wind up deciding employment law cases because of the subtlety of the issues involved. In the following case, the Minnesota Court of Appeals sent a case to trial so a jury can decide whether taking away an employee’s telecommuting opportunity might be retaliation.

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A bill before the Minnesota Legislature would allow the state to suspend prevailing wage requirements on state-funded construction projects if November budget projections show a 1% or greater deficit. State prevailing wage legislation is patterned after the federal Davis-Bacon Act, which requires federally funded construction projects to pay the “prevailing wage” for specific job classifications.

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Here’s a bit of good news for employers trying to make sure they don’t violate the Fair Labor Standards Act: The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that employees—not employers—have the initial burden of showing they actually worked during unpaid lunch or other break periods.

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There’s a new I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form for employers to complete when hiring employees and reverifying the employment eligibility of certain employees with temporary work authorization. Make sure you have a properly completed Form I-9 for every employee to avoid legal penalties for hiring unauthorized workers.

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The Star-Tribune, one of the 20 largest newspapers in the country, has signed on to a class-action settlement agreement involving two women who filed sexual harassment charges against the company. The agreement was worked out by the EEOC after two women working in the mailroom claimed they were subjected to a sexually hostile work environment.

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In his 25 years on the Minneapolis Fire Department, Thomas Davison fought a series of debilitating health conditions along with the fires he helped put out. He also had to fight the department to obtain health benefits.

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Sometimes, employees think they can save themselves from being disciplined by making a fuss about possible employer wrongdoing. They assume that whistle-blowing will protect them from being fired, for example, because their employer’s timing will look suspect. Smart employers don’t fall for this.

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Minnesota employees are protected from being fired in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. That means employers have to think twice before discharging such an employee for anything but the most solid reasons.

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OSHA is responsible for worker safety, and it takes that responsibility seriously. It recently won a significant victory in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld OSHA’s right to hold contractors liable for their subcontractors’ safety violations.

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Employers have to let their employees know about the FMLA so they can take advantage of the leave guaranteed by the law. But if an employee doesn’t take advantage of his FMLA rights, the employer can’t be held liable for not providing leave even if it turns out the employee was eligible.

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