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Minneapolis Employment Law Blog

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Top Rated Lawyers | 2012 Labor and Employment

Minnesota lawsuit demonstrates complexity of employment-law cases

If you’ve never been involved in a legal dispute, you may be surprised at how long certain cases can take. In matters of employment law especially, lawsuits often include allegations of several illegal actions including sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination. When several individuals and entities are named as defendants, the case becomes even more complex.

A good example is a sexual harassment case that originated in Lake City, Minnesota, which is about 70 miles southeast of the Twin Cities. The lawsuit was first filed in 2012, thrown out by a judge and was only recently allowed to proceed upon appeal. The Minnesota Court of Appeals, however, ruled that of the several allegations originally made by the plaintiff, only the sexual harassment allegations can proceed to trial.

Was St. Paul PD's sexual harassment settlement offer fair?

It is always concerning to hear about cases of workplace misconduct involving elected officials and public servants, including politicians and police officers. Not only are these individuals supposed to maintain a role-model standard of conduct, they are also paid with taxpayer money. When an employment law case is litigated or settled, this money presumably comes at taxpayer expense.

Many Minnesotans have been following the sexual harassment case filed by a St. Paul police sergeant against a superior, department officials and the city. Recently, the lawsuit was settled for approximately $60,000.

Legal concerns with teen summer jobs & internships: Part II

In our previous post we began a discussion about some of the problems teenagers face as they work summer jobs, including wage and hour violations. In today’s post, we’ll talk about unpaid internships.

Many people (including employers) don’t realize that unpaid internships at private-sector, for-profit companies must meet certain criteria in order to be legal and legitimate. Unpaid internships have received considerable scrutiny since the start of the Great Recession because a significant number of companies started using unpaid interns as a replacement for paid employees, which is illegal.

Legal concerns with teen summer jobs & internships: Part I

Now that summer is in full swing, many high school-aged teenagers in Minnesota are working summer jobs. Some of these teens are working more hours at a job they also hold during the school year. Others are picking up seasonal employment that will be finished by the time they head back to school in the fall. Still others are participating in internships, both paid and unpaid.

All of these endeavors are a good opportunity for teenagers to get a sense of adult working life. Unfortunately, many employers take unfair advantage of teen workers and interns, who may not understand their rights in the workplace. This week, we’ll discuss some of the employment law violations that teenagers should watch out for.

Fired employee holds company liable for FMLA violations: Part II

Earlier this week, we began a discussion about a lawsuit alleging that a woman was fired while taking 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The woman had sought the leave to that she could care for her daughter during cancer treatments.

She had not specified a return-to-work date, but her leave was nonetheless approved. When she returned after 12 weeks, however, she found that her employer had hired someone else and that she was out of a job. Although a judge originally awarded summary judgment to her employer, an appellate court recently overturned the ruling and instead awarded summary judgment to the former employee.

Fired employee holds company liable for FMLA violations: Part I

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees can take up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid leave to attend to personal illness, family-member illness or a child-related transition including the birth of a child and adoption. FMLA leave requirements apply to most private companies with 50 or more employees. Employees who are eligible and approved for FMLA leave are not paid during the time they don’t work, but their job is protected.

Because FMLA leave is so often the result of a major life change or serious medical hardship, employers should give their workers the benefit of the doubt in cases where some small procedural detail was missed. Companies that stringently hold their employees to the letter of the law sometimes end up violating it, thus leaving themselves vulnerable to legal action.

Religious discrimination: Illegal regardless of specific religion

Freedom of religion is one of the more important rights afforded to Americans and was among the main reasons that colonists first traveled to the new world. But we too often forget that “freedom of religion” also includes “freedom from religion.” Just as we are free to believe and observe as we see fit, others are free to reject our religious views and customs.

This is an important distinction. Sometimes, it prevents Christians (as America’s dominant religious group) from violating the rights of religious minorities. Other times, it prevents employment discrimination because employees cannot be required to conform to the religious beliefs and practices of their employers.

Company's written memos seemingly detail age discrimination plans

Age discrimination can be subtle, which is, in part, why allegations of age discrimination are often difficult to prove. For instance, many companies focus on youth as a way of staying relevant to consumers. But this doesn’t necessarily mean a given company is discriminating against its older employees. Unless, of course, that discriminating attitude is made plain in a series of company-wide memoranda.

This was the case at a flooring company that fired eight older employees at approximately the same time in 2012. One of the employees filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and has since received permission to pursue an age discrimination lawsuit against her former employer.

College degree does not always close racial opportunity gaps

Earlier this month, we wrote about a study highlighting the subtle forms of race discrimination in employment. Many who study race relations and broad social trends in general believe that while overt and conscious racism is certainly less of a problem than in the past, racism has become institutionalized and codified over many generations. The result is an America that believes itself to be colorblind and inclusive while perpetuating the race inequality embedded in the status quo.

How far back in a person’s life does race discrimination reach? Some would argue that it is there from birth. However, it can at least be measured among college graduates looking for work. A recent article in MinnPost discusses statistics showing that African-American college graduates suffer unemployment rates that are more than double the rates of young college graduates overall.

Older workers edit resumes to prevent age discrimination

When first entering into the job market, many of us probably “padded” our résumés a little bit. It is hard to be taken seriously when you have excellent skills and training but little experience to back it up.

Résumé padding is a common and expected practice. But is there ever a reason to slim down your résumé? That is, should you ever omit important accomplishments and work history? Unfortunately, many older job seekers have said they needed to do this in order to avoid giving employers clues about their age. As we have previously written, age discrimination is a significant problem in Minnesota and throughout the United States.

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