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The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

Here’s an important reminder to pass along to managers and supervisors: Simply dismissing a disabled employee’s request for accommodations is folly unless it is crystal clear that no accommodation is possible.

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Soldiers who take military leave for active service or training are generally entitled to return to their jobs when they finish their military service. They even have protection from being terminated without cause if they served long enough. But USERRA does not protect employees who fail to follow existing company rules when they return or try to return.

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Soldiers who take military leave for active service or training are generally entitled to return to their jobs when they finish their military service. They even have protection from being terminated without cause if they served long enough. But USERRA does not protect employees who fail to follow existing company rules when they return or try to return.

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Employers have the right to ex­­­pect everyone to behave ap­­pro­­pri­­ately at work. That includes employees with mental disabilities who may have trouble with communication and perception. What that means: You are free to punish inappropriate behavior regard­less of its cause.

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Employers know they are supposed to provide their employees with in­­­­for­mation about how to handle discrimination or harassment. Most employers put up a poster on a break room bulletin board to outline the process. This simple practice can prove invaluable when an employee tries to use ignorance as an excuse for not complaining right away.

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Minneapolis-based retail giant Target will pay $160,000 to settle a disability discrimination suit at one of its California stores. The EEOC filed the suit on behalf of Jeremy Schott, who suffers from cerebral palsy.

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Marshall-based frozen food giant Schwan’s attempt to quash an EEOC subpoena was stopped cold when the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the company must hand over a list of 600 Schwan’s general managers, their genders and dates of hire. The EEOC demanded the documents in connection with a sex discrimination case filed by a former employee.

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Employers have a right to expect em­­ployees to follow the work rules laid out for them. Employees who are terminated for breaking those rules won’t be eligible for unemployment compensation because it was their fault they were discharged.

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Some employees need FMLA leave to cope with work stress. But that doesn’t mean that employers can’t punish someone who makes threats.

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Fortunately for employers, courts measure a hostile work environment against the “reasonable employee” standard. If a reasonable employee would not find the conduct hostile, then it doesn’t matter how intensely a particular employee reacts to allegedly hostile acts. The idea behind the standard is to protect employers from exaggerated claims, especially when it is clear the employer took the allegations seriously and moved to prevent further problems.

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Watch out if a supervisor starts keeping extra-close tabs on an employee’s work in the wake of declining productivity or a poor review. You must make sure all employees in a similar situation get the same close attention.

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The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to expand the ways in which employees who are passed over for promotions can sue. It turned down a request to allow a lawsuit alleging that previously denied promotions could be considered as evidence of bias in later promotion denials.

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Employers that develop clear, fair and transparent hiring processes seldom have to worry about losing a failure-to-hire lawsuit. That’s true even if they end up using so-called subjective reasons for not hiring a candidate. Simply put, judges are impressed when it looks like a potential employer bends over backward to ensure it doesn’t discriminate.

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You may have noticed a slight chill in the air recently. For the second time this year, ICE has notified 1,000 employers that it plans to inspect their Form I-9 records. Whether your company has received a Notice of Intent to Audit or you have been lucky enough to avoid one until now, it is important to understand how a NOI may impact your organization.

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Now is the time to review your return-to-work policies and practices for employees on leave. They need to be integrated without regard to the reason that prompted leave. Treating workers differently depending on the reason for their absence opens the possibility of a disability discrimination claim.

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Employers get lots of leeway when it comes to terminating employees. For example, courts generally uphold firing someone for breaking a rule as long as the employer reasonably believed the employee broke the rule—even if it turns out he did not. But when it looks as if the employer tried to trick the employee into breaking a rule, judges won’t look the other way.

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Employees who take FMLA leave to deal with their own serious health condition are entitled to reinstatement to their jobs or substantially identical ones when they return. But what if the employee isn’t ready to come back after 12 weeks? In that case, employers don’t have to reinstate the employee—at least not under the FMLA.

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Few reasonable employees like working in an unpleasant environment where co-workers call each other names and generally treat each other with disrespect. They may, however, ignore such conduct to avoid rocking the boat. But supervisors who don’t put a stop to it risk a hostile environment lawsuit. That’s why you should consider adopting a civility policy that demands employees treat each other with respect and bans insults and other boorish behavior.

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Here’s something to remember when you’re worried about firing someone because you might get sued: Judges don’t want to run HR departments. As long as HR acts honestly and believes the employee should be fired because she broke a company rule, chances are a lawsuit won’t ­succeed.

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Employees who have been fired generally qualify for unemployment benefits unless they were terminated for misconduct. But “misconduct” is broadly defined. It can even include rude or snippy behavior that shows an employee doesn’t really care.

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