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New Minnesota law lets workers care for more sick relatives | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

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Published July 30, 2013, 07:45 AM New Minnesota law lets workers care for more sick relatives Tim Sorenson can’t forget what happened a couple of years ago when, a few hours before his shift, his sister called to tell him … Continue reading

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Public employee contract transparency target of Burnsville lawmaker, again – TwinCities.com

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Public employee contract transparency target of Burnsville lawmaker, again By Christopher Magan cmagan@pioneerpress.com Posted:   02/15/2013 12:01:00 AM CST Updated:   02/16/2013 09:32:08 AM CST State Rep. Pam Myhra, R-Burnsville Minnesota state lawmakers have another shot at improving transparency when public … Continue reading

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Should comparing public and private sector employees be legal in contract talks? | TheGazette

Should comparing public and private sector employees be legal in contract talks? As state and national economies continue to struggle, more and more claims have been made in recent years that taxpayer-funded public employees are paid too much, pay too little … Continue reading

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197.455 VETERAN’S PREFERENCE APPLIED, 2012 Minnesota Statutes

197.455 VETERAN’S PREFERENCE APPLIED. Subdivision 1.Application. (a) This section shall govern preference of a veteran under the civil service laws, charter provisions, ordinances, rules or regulations of a county, city, town, school district, or other municipality or political subdivision of … Continue reading

Minnesota Employment Law Report : Minneapolis Lawyers and Attorneys for Labor Law

Employees Head Back to the Polls

Blog Pic - Vote Button.jpgOn Tuesday, November 6, 2012, Minnesotans will head to the polls to cast their vote.  As we’vereminded employers in the past, Minnesota’s Election Day Law, Minn. Stat. § 204C.04, gives employees the right to time off to vote.

“Right to Be Absent from Work . . . Without Penalty or Deduction”

Pursuant to Section 204C.04, every employee who is eligible to vote has the “right to be absent from work” to vote on the day of the election, “without penalty or deduction from salary or wages because of the absence . . . .”  Under the law, employees have the right to be absent from work “for the time necessary to appear at the employee’s polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work . . . .”

Employers or “other persons” may not either directly or indirectly refuse to grant the time off or otherwise interfere with an employee’s right to take the time to vote on Election Day.  Persons who violate the statute are guilty of a misdemeanor.

Employer FAQs

While the Minnesota Election Day Law provides little specifics on how exactly the leave should work, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie provided some guidance in a recent letter to “All Minnesota Employers.”

  • Can I request that employees provide advanced notice and coordinate their time off with other employees who need time off to vote?

Yes. While the statute does not directly address this issue, the Secretary of State believes that “employers may request that employees provide notification as to when they will be gone and request that employees coordinate their absences so as to minimize adverse impact on the workplace.”

Importantly, the Secretary of State uses the term “request” (not “require”), so it is likely not permissible for an employer to mandate that employees give it advanced notice or that employees coordinate their absences.

  • Can I limit the amount of time the employee is absent from work?

Likely yes, but this issue is not directly addressed by the statute or the letter from the Secretary of State.  It would also be difficult to enforce.

Specifically, the statute provides that the employee must be given time off for the time necessary to (1) appear at the employee’s polling place, (2) cast a ballot, and (3) return to work. Thus, it is safe to say that it does not provide for time off to stop at McDonald’s on the way. It may be difficult, however, to determine whether an employee who seems to be taking a long time to return to work is doing anything other than simply waiting in a long line at the polling place.

It is important to note that the statute makes it clear that the employee should be given sufficient time to vote at the “employee’s polling place.” Therefore, employees who travel great distances to get to work must be given enough time to travel to their polling place and back.

  • Can I require the employee to use accrued vacation or paid time off (PTO) to make up the difference?

No.  The statute gives employees the right to be absent from work “without penalty or deduction from salary or wages.”  According to the Secretary of State, this means that “employees cannot be required to use personal leave or vacation time for the time off necessary to vote.”

Bottom Line

Minnesota employers are required by law to provide employees with time off to vote on election day.  The amount of time must be sufficient to (1) appear at the employee’s polling place, (2) cast a ballot, and (3) return to work.  The time off must be paid, but employers can take some steps to minimize the disruption these absences may cause.

Minnesota Employment Law Report : Minneapolis Lawyers & Attorneys for Labor Law.

Minnesota Employment Law Report : Minneapolis Lawyers & Attorneys for Labor Law

Court OK’s Change in Workweek to Minimize Overtime

Blog Pic - Timecard.jpgThe Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Minnesota) ruled that the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) does not prevent an employer from altering its designated workweek to minimize the potential for employee overtime.

The employees of Redland Energy Services in Arkansas worked seven, twelve-hour shifts, followed by seven consecutive days off. In May of 2009, Redland changed the standard workweek to from Tuesday through Monday to Sunday through Saturday. The employees sued, arguing that this caused them to earn less overtime even though they were working the same number of hours. In effect, they contended that any change designed to reduce overtime liability was a violation of the FLSA.

The trial court dismissed the employees’ claims and the Eighth Circuit affirmed in the case of Abshire v. Redland Energy Servs., LLC, No. 11-3380 (Oct. 10, 2012).

Overtime Provisions at Work

Since employees generally must be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours in a workweek, it is critical to know just what a workweek actually is. Department of Labor regulations, 29 C.F.R. § 778.105, define a workweek to be:

[A] fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours—seven consecutive 24-hour periods. It need not coincide with the calendar week but may begin on any day and at any hour of the day. . . . Once the beginning time of an employee’s workweek is established, it remains fixed regardless of the schedule of hours worked by him.

The appeals court noted first that the FLSA does not prevent employers from selecting a designated workweek that results in employees earning fewer overtime hours than if the workweek was “better” aligned with their shift schedules. In short, the law does not restrict the employer’s initial establishment of its workweek. Subsequently, if a change is to be made, the DOL regulations state that the change must be “permanent and . . . not designated to evade the overtime requirements of the Act.”

The Eighth Circuit observed that the employees’ chief complaint was that Redland intended to reduce the amount of overtime due to them under federal law. Perhaps so, but the court concluded that it was never the original purpose of the FLSA to “maximize the payment of overtime” to employees. Rather, “[s]o long as the change is intended to be permanent, and it is implemented in accordance with the FLSA, the employer’s reasons for adopting the change are irrelevant.”

Bottom Line

The FLSA does not mandate that employees be paid as much overtime as possible; it merely requires that overtime be paid when it is earned. While an employer may not make a series of changes that constantly evade the overtime requirement, a decision to implement a permanent change in the workweek to minimize labor costs is perfectly permissible under the law.

Minnesota Employment Law Report : Minneapolis Lawyers & Attorneys for Labor Law.

NLRB AGREES THAT EMPLOYEE’S FACEBOOK POST IS UNPROTECTED, BUT EMPLOYER’S “COURTESY” POLICY IS UNLAWFUL

NLRB Agrees that Employee’s Facebook Post Is Unprotected, But Employer’s “Courtesy” Policy Is Unlawful

Posted by Grant T. Collins on October 04, 2012

Blog Pic - Facebook Like.jpgOn September 28, 2012, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) unanimously upheld the firing of a BMW salesman for posting work-related photos and comments on hisFacebook page. At the same time, however, they also ruled (in a split 2-1 decision) that the dealership violated federal labor law by maintaining an overbroad policy on employee courtesy.  Karl Knauz Motors, Inc., Case 13–CA–046452 (NLRB 2012).

Firing Employees Over Facebook Posts Is Risky Business

The National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) protects the activities of two or more employees (both union and non-union) who are discussing or trying to improve their terms and conditions of employment — even if the activity takes place on Facebook. What’s more, even a single individual’s actions might be protected if those actions are undertaken on behalf of a group of employees.

The first issue was the salesman’s Facebook post of photos of the refreshments offered at the dealership’s recent sales event, which the salesman found unsuitable. He included comments such as “No, that’s not champagne or wine, it’s 8 oz. water” and “[t]he small 8 oz bags of chips, and the $2.00 cookie plate from Sam’s Club…were such a nice touch.”

The second Facebook post included photos of an accident at the adjacent Land Rover dealership owned by the same employer. A customer’s 13-year-old son had been allowed to sit behind the wheel where he apparently hit the gas, ran over his parent’s foot, and drove into a pond. The salesman also included the sarcastic commentary: “OOPS.”

As to the food-related post, the Board concluded that it may have been protected by the NLRA because it spoke on behalf of co-workers concerned about how their image affected sales and commissions. Nevertheless, the Board declined to rule definitively on this issue because the Board determined that it was the posting on the Land Rover post that ultimately caused the salesman’s discharge. In that regard, the Board ruled that the Land Rover post was not protected because it was not concerted and it did not relate to the salesman’s terms and conditions of employment. Instead, they concluded:

“It was posted solely by [the salesman], apparently as a lark, without any discussion with any other employee of the [dealership], and had no connection to any of the employees’ terms and conditions of employment. It is so obviously unprotected that it is unnecessary to discuss whether the mocking tone of the posting further affects the nature of the posting.”

Split Panel Strikes Down Employer’s “Courtesy” Policy as Overbroad

In this same case, the Board ruled that the dealership violated the law by maintaining an overbroad policy on employee courtesy that read:

“Courtesy is the responsibility of every employee. Everyone is expected to be courteous, polite and friendly to our customers, vendors and suppliers, as well as to their fellow employees. No one should be disrespectful or use profanity or any other language which injures the image or reputation of the Dealership.”

The Board ruled that banning “disrespectful” conduct and language that might injure the “image or reputation” of the employer could reasonably be construed by employees “as encompassing Section 7 activity, such as employees’ protected statements — whether to coworkers, supervisors, managers, or third parties who deal with the Respondent — that object to their working conditions and seek the support of others in improving them.” The Board concluded “[N]othing in [the dealership’s] rule, or anywhere else in the employee handbook, that would reasonably suggest to employees that employee communications protected by Section 7 of the Act are excluded from the rule’s broad breach.”

Bottom Line

The new guidance provides additional insight into the NLRB’s treatment of social media under the NLRA, as well as the consequences of drafting and circulating policies that are too broad, thereby unlawfully prohibiting protected concerted activity.

Minnesota Employment Law Report : Minneapolis Lawyers & Attorneys for Labor Law

The tragic events that unfolded yesterday at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis are an unfortunate reminder that workplace violence can happen anywhere and at any time.  Our hearts and prayers are with the victims of this horrible event, and our thoughts turn to trying to help others avoid a similar calamity.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that almost 2 million workers experience workplace violence every year.  While the degree of violence varies, hundreds of American workers are murdered each year at work in acts that we all say “couldn’t happen here”, until they do.

Obviously, there is no sure-fire plan that will guarantee complete freedom from workplace violence.  Violence is often irrational and unpredictable, and occasionally totally random.  Still, there are steps that employers can and should take to give themselves the best possible chance of preventing such tragedies.  These steps include:

Enact, publicize and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for threats and violence in your workplace.  Make sure that you clearly define the behaviors that are covered.

Ban weapons from the work environment.

Conduct thorough criminal background checks before hiring.

Educate supervisors and managers on the warning signs of troubled employees and potential violence.

Establish clear and comfortable procedures for employees to report threats or violent acts.

Resolve workplace disputes expeditiously and fairly so that resentments don’t escalate.

Evaluate security procedures on a regular basis.

Prepare a plan for responding to potential and actual violence.  Identify available resources, assign authority for contacting police, etc.

Consider maintaining an employee assistance plan (EAP) to provide effective referrals for employee experiencing the types of problems that often precede acts of violence.

Handle disciplinary and termination issues with dignity and professionalism, but also with caution and preparedness.

The best way to prevent workplace violence is to anticipate and defuse it.  After all, isn’t it better to ask your self “what can I do?” rather than “What could I have done?”

via Minnesota Employment Law Report : Minneapolis Lawyers & Attorneys for Labor Law.

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Minnesota Employment Law Report : Minneapolis Lawyers & Attorneys for Labor Law

Certain Agreements Not to Contest Unemployment Benefits Are No Longer Valid

Posted by Richard R. Voelbel on June 26, 2012

Often times when an employee just doesn’t “work out,” employers agree to not contest unemployment as part of the employee’s separation agreement.  In addition to a severance payment or continuation of health care benefits, the employer’s agreement not to contest unemployment is an additional benefit (or “consideration”) for the employee’s promise not to sue.

However, the Minnesota Legislature has stepped in to put an end to that practice by making such agreements invalid.   This means that unless you have offered other consideration in addition to this promise, the separation agreement, including the employee’s promise not to bring suit, may be invalid.

Specifically, beginning July 1, 2012, an employer may not agree to not contest the payment of unemployment benefits, including agreeing not to provide information to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, in exchange for an employee agreeing to:
Quit the employment;
Take a leave of absence;
Leave the employment temporarily or permanently; or
Withdraw a grievance or appeal of a termination.

2012 Minn. Laws. Ch. 201 Art. 3, Sec. 7 (to be codified as Minn. Stat. § 268.192, subd. 1(a)). According to the new law, “[a]n agreement that violates this subdivision has no effect under this chapter.”

Bottom Line

Note that this new law states that an agreement promising to not contest benefits “has no effect under this chapter.” (Emphasis supplied). This means that the agreement not to contest benefits will be ignored in the context of the unemployment process but will not affect the rest of the agreement. However, if the promise not to contest benefits is the only thing that the employer offers in return for the release of all claims, the entire release won’t be valid because the employer will not actually have given up anything in return for that release.

For this reason, employers should make sure that they have included other benefits, such as a severance payment, payment of specified benefit premiums, or other similar items, to ensure that the employee’s promise not to sue is supported by adequate consideration. Simply promising not to contest unemployment benefits is now a legally empty promise.

via Minnesota Employment Law Report : Minneapolis Lawyers & Attorneys for Labor Law.