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The HR Specialist: Minnesota Employment Law

You’ll rarely lose a termination-related lawsuit if your handbook contains clear rules that you follow consistently. That’s because when everyone who breaks the same rule is equitably disciplined, fired employees will have a hard time finding ­workers outside their protected class who were treated more favorably than they were.

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When upper management rubber-stamps an employment decision made by a supervisor who discriminates, the employer is liable for the discrimination. But if higher-ups independently review the situation before ratifying the decision, the employer isn’t bound by its discriminating subordinate’s wrongdoing.

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While it is illegal to discriminate against an individual based on his or her national origin, that doesn’t mean that discrimination against someone based on her immigration status is forbidden. That’s because immigration status isn’t tied to a particular national origin.

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Here’s a basic way to avoid FMLA trouble: Before punishing an employee for poor attendance, double-check whether any of the time she’s missed was for FMLA leave. That way, there’s no question about whether FMLA leave was a factor in discipline.

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Bipartisan legislation working its way through the U.S. Senate would make it easier for employees to prove age and disability discrimination. The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act seeks to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 decision in Gross v. F.B.I. Financial Services.

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OSHA has updated its hazard communication standard to harmonize it with international standards. Com­­panies that manufacture, transport or have chemicals in the workplace must begin complying with the new standard by June 26.

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When CNN ran a report in 2010 alleging pervasive bias in the Federal Air Marshal’s Service (FAMS), authorities braced for the worst. The good news: The resulting government investigation didn’t uncover widespread discrimination. The bad news: Investigators found that many FAMS employees believe they have been discriminated against.

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The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has handed a significant victory to the EEOC, allowing the agency to continue to supervise settled cases. The impact: Employers should expect continued EEOC charges even after the ink is dry on their settlements.

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Sexual harassment is always a serious issue that warrants fast corrective action. In most cases, it’s appropriate to simply separate the alleged harasser and victim while you investigate. But more immediate help may be in order if the harasser and the victim are traveling together or isolated.

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Warn decision-makers who decide to act on their own, ignoring HR’s guidance: Juries can hold them personally liable for legal missteps—and make them pay punitive damages.

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