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The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Minnesota employers are stuck in the middle of the battle between state and federal law. The tension may create confusion for employers trying to legally enforce their policies, including drug-free workplace policies.

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A federal court has refused to certify a wage-and-hour class-action lawsuit. The crux of the case: Minnesota’s unique rules requiring employees to be paid for breaks of less than 20 minutes.

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Employees who are fired for refusing to work can’t collect unemployment benefits. Failing to work is considered willful misconduct.

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When a customer harasses an employee, the employer may be held liable for allowing a hostile work environment if it knew about the potential problem. However, the employee has a responsibility to report the incident.

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When Minnesota public employees are reinstated following arbitration of a disciplinary case, the employer may still move to prevent reinstatement under the concept of public policy interest. That’s especially true for law enforcement employees accused of using excessive force.

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To win a retaliation case, the worker would have to prove that the discipline was motivated by a desire to punish him or her for making the report. That’s unlikely to succeed if 1) the discipline began before the safety problem was reported or 2) it is clear that any other worker would have been disciplined for the same rule violation.

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Be careful how you react when an employee announces she is expecting. In the end, the employer won this pregnancy discrimination lawsuit, but defending against it cost huge legal fees and took up hundreds of hours.

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Here’s an important warning for managers with the power to influence hiring decisions: Repeating stereotypes about applicants invites discrimination lawsuits, as a recent case shows.

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The bookkeeper for Farm Mercantile in Fairfax, Minn., faces five charges of filing false tax returns because she failed to report $266,333 in embezzled income. In all, she allegedly pocketed $535,000 from the hardware and farm supply store from 1998 to 2016.

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Since Minneapolis’s Safe and Sick Time Ordinance took effect last July, the city has been working with employers to help them comply with the law. For almost a year, the city has levied no fines. That will all end on July 1.

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Last month we reported that former University of Minnesota – Duluth women’s hockey coach Shannon Miller had finally prevailed in a years-long sex discrimination lawsuit. Now two more former employees are alleging the university discriminated against them on the basis of their sexual orientation.

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The U.S. Department of Justice has announced plans to file criminal charges against employers that collude to fix wages or not hire one another’s workers under “nonpoaching agreements.”
As a result, employers are more likely than ever to either have their trade secrets compromised or face liability for knowingly or unknowingly possessing a competitor’s confidential information.

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A federal court has concluded it doesn’t have the right to disqualify an arbitrator from hearing a case before a decision has been made. It’s another indication that courts aren’t eager to micromanage arbitrations.

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Employees suing under the Equal Pay Act who can prove that they held a substantially similar job but were paid less than a member of the opposite sex don’t have to prove that the employer intended to discriminate.

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An employee who complains about perceived discrimination may be wrong, but filing a complaint still counts as protected activity. If she files an EEOC complaint or a lawsuit, firing her shortly after she complains is just asking for a retaliation claim.

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A federal court has granted a temporary injunction in a case involving continued health insurance coverage. The court concluded that a group of retired workers would likely succeed on the merits of their case.

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The first in-person treatment with a health care professional must take place within seven days of the initial illness or injury that rendered the worker incapable of performing his job. Otherwise, the regulations assume the condition isn’t a serious health condition. Thus, the worker would not be entitled to FMLA leave.

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Sometimes, filing a lawsuit and airing dirty laundry in a public forum can be embarrassing and uncomfortable for an employee. That doesn’t give her the right to bring the case using a pseudonym, a federal court has ruled.

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A federal jury hearing a discrimination lawsuit filed against the University of Minnesota Duluth has awarded $3.7 million to Shannon Miller, the university’s former women’s hockey coach.

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Be sure employees know your rules for leaving work early. That way, an employee who violates the rules will have committed willful misconduct, disqualifying him from receiving unemployment compensation benefits.

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