May 12, 2014

Seminar to address Women’s Economic Security Act

Posted in Care of Relatives Leave, Discrimination, Domestic violence, Equal Pay, Family and Medical Leave Act, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Family Leave, Gender / Sex, Leaves of Absence, Leaves of Absence, Minnesota Parenting Leave Act, Nursing Mothers, Parenting Leave, Pregnancy, Reasonable Accommodation, Sick or Injured Child Care Leave tagged , , , at 8:40 am by Tom Jacobson

Gov. Mark Dayton yesterday signed into law the Women’s Economic Security Act. Among other things, the new law will expand leave rights for many Minnesota employees. The new law will be covered in detail at the Eleventh Annual West Central Minnesota Employment Law Update to be held on Thursday, June 12, 2014 at Alexandria Technical and Community College.

The event has been approved for 6.0 HRCI credits. For complete details on the seminar, go to 2014 Employment Law Update Agenda. To register, go to 2014 Employment Law Update Registration.

For more information about this article, please contact me at alexandriamnlaw.com or taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2014 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz, PA

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April 24, 2014

Women’s Economic Security Act Passed by MN House

Posted in Care of Relatives Leave, Caregiver Leave, Discrimination, Domestic violence, Employee Handbooks, Equal Pay, Family and Medical Leave Act, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Gender / Sex, Leaves of Absence, Leaves of Absence, Minnesota Parenting Leave Act, Nursing Mothers, Pregnancy, Reasonable Accommodation, Workplace Violence tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:32 am by Tom Jacobson

The Minnesota House of Representatives on April 9, 2014 passed the Women’s Economic Security Act (HF 2536) by a 106-24 vote. The companion Senate bill (SF 2050) awaits action in the Senate.

According to the Senate’s bill summary, the law will:

  • Allow mothers to stay in the workplace by expanding family leave and providing minor, reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing employees;
  • Decrease the gender pay gap through the participation of women in high-wage, high-demand nontraditional work;
  • Reduce the gender pay gap through increased enforcement of equal pay laws for state contractors and by allowing employees to discuss pay inequities;
  • Address economic consequences of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault;
  • Enhance retirement security by considering a state retirement savings plan for those without an employer-provided option
  • Expand grandparent care-giving options.

The law would also allow employers to reduce the period of leave it may require by the amount of any paid leave or leave required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), so that the total time off does not exceed 12 weeks. The new law would clarify that only 12 weeks of leave are required even if the employee is eligible for both state and federal leave.

What you need to know: If enacted into law, this legislation will require most Minnesota employers to take a close look at their existing policies and procedures and to make any changes necessary to bring them into compliance.

For more information about this article, please contact me at alexandriamnlaw.com or  taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2014 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz, PA

February 15, 2013

New FMLA poster requirement takes effect March 8

Posted in Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Leaves of Absence, Posting Requirements, Posting Requirements, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 7:16 am by Tom Jacobson

FMLABy March 8, 2013 employers covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act must start using the new poster prepared by the United States Department of Labor. The poster summarizes the major provisions of the FMLA, and it advises employees how to file a complaint. The DOL requires the poster to be “displayed in a conspicuous place where employees and applicants for employment can see it…. [and] at all locations even if there are no eligible employees.” Covered employers may continue to use the old version of this poster until March 7, but thereafter they must post the new notice.

Not every employer in the U.S. is covered by the FMLA. Under the FMLA, a “covered employer” is a:

  • Private-sector employer, with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year, including a joint employer or successor in interest to a covered employer;
  • Public agency, including a local, state, or Federal government agency, regardless of the number of employees it employs; or
  • Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees it employs.

Download the DOL’s new poster by clicking here or by visiting the DOL Wage and Hour Division’s FMLA site. For more information about this article, please contact me at alexandriamnlaw.com or  taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2013 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz, PA

January 22, 2013

Updating employee handbooks: now is the time

Posted in Acknowledgment, Arrest records, At-will Employment, Background Checking, Computer Use, Confidential Information, Conviction Records, Criminal History, Disclaimers, Employee Handbooks, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Hiring and Recruiting, Internet Policies, Interviewing, Leaves of Absence, Leaves of Absence, Minnesota Parenting Leave Act, National Labor Relations Act, Protected Concerted Activity, Social Media, Social Media in the Workplace, Social Networking tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:47 am by Tom Jacobson

employee handbook1I recently had the privilege of speaking at and moderating a day-long seminar covering recent developments in employment law. Although the topics ranged broadly from background checks to the basics of employee leave, one common theme emerged: employers who have not kept their employee handbooks and other policies up to date are running the increased risk of liability for legal claims brought by their employees.

For example:

  • Some commonly used “at-will” employment acknowledgments, confidentiality clauses, investigation practices, and social medial policies have been deemed to violate the National Labor Relations Act.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has published guidance on how arrest and conviction records may be used when performing background checks on applicants or employees. Among other things, these guidelines address when an individualized assessment of an applicant’s or employee’s arrest or conviction record should be done.
  • One recent litigation trend is employers and employees (or former employees)  fighting over the ownership of social media accounts and followers.
  • Recent court decisions have broadly interpreted employees’ rights to parenting leave under Minnesota law.
  • At least four states (California, Illinois, Maryland and Michigan) have adopted laws regulating employers’ access to employees’ social media sites, and similar legislation has been proposed in Minnesota.

What you need to know: If your employee handbooks and policies have not been reviewed by legal counsel and updated recently, now is the time. For more information about this process, please contact me at 320-763-3141 or taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2013 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz, PA

October 24, 2012

Electing To Be Absent — Employees’ Election Day Rights in Minnesota

Posted in Election Day, Election Day, Leaves of Absence, Voting Rights tagged , , , , , , at 9:07 am by Tom Jacobson

With less than two weeks to go before election day, this is a good time for Minnesota employers and employees to think ahead about their election day rights.

Specifically, employees have a right to be absent from work for the time necessary to vote.  Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. § 204C.04) provides that:

Every employee who is eligible to vote in an election has 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 on the day of that election, without penalty or deduction from salary or wages because of the absence. An employer or other person may not directly or indirectly refuse, abridge, or interfere with this right or any other election right of an employee.

Violating this law is a misdemeanor.

This right does not apply to all elections, but it does apply to any “regularly scheduled state primary or general election, an election to fill a vacancy in the office of United States senator or United States representative, or an election to fill a vacancy in the office of state senator or state representative.” So, it will apply this Nov. 6.

Another Minnesota law (Minn. Stat. § 204B.195) provides that employees who serve as election judges may, after giving their employer at least 20 days’ written notice, be absent from work to serve as election judges. The written request to be absent must be accompanied by a certification from the appointing authority stating the hourly compensation to be paid the employee for service as an election judge and the hours during which the employee will serve. Employers may reduce the salary or wages of employees serving as  election judges by the amount paid to the election judge by the appointing authority during the time the employee was absent from work. Also, employers may restrict the number of persons to be absent from work to serve as election judges to no more than 20 percent of the total work force at any single work site.

What you need to know:  By adhering to the statutes noted above, Minnesota employees and employers can protect the right to vote while minimizing any disruptions in the workplace. 

For more information about this article, please contact me at taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2012 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz, PA

August 31, 2011

Better late than never? Employee wins unemployment claim after two month absence

Posted in Absenteeism, Absenteeism, Attendance, Leaves of Absence, Misconduct, Unemployment Benefits, Unexcused Absence tagged , , , at 9:29 am by Tom Jacobson

In a case that proves that things are not always as they seem, a Minnesota employee has been awarded unemployment benefits despite her failure to report to work for two months.

The case, Genemo v. Donatelle Plastics, Inc., involves Hawi Genemo who was employed by Donatelle Plastics, Inc.  After learning that her mother was seriously ill in a remote area of Africa, Genemo requested and was granted a leave of absence to visit and care for her mother.  The leave was to run from April 21 to May 19, 2010, and she was also told she could request additional time off if needed.

Unfortunately, while in Africa Genemo encountered civil unrest and a lack of mail, electricity, phone service and Internet. Thus, she was unable to contact Donatelle about her situation.  Because of the lack of contact, Donatelle discharged her effective May 27, 2010.  Genemo returned in July, 2010.

Genemo was initially disqualified from unemployment benefits on the basis that her failure to keep in contact with her employer was employment misconduct. The Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed.  Relying on Minn. Stat. § 268.095, Subd. 6(b)(8), the court noted that it is not employment misconduct when an employee is absent “with proper notice to the employer, in order to provide necessary care because of the illness, injury, or disability of an immediate family member of the applicant.”  Because the initial notice was proper and because further notice was deemed “impractical if not impossible,” the court ruled that even though Donatelle’s decision was reasonable, Genemo’s absence and failure to contact Donatelle was not employment misconduct, so she was deemed eligible for unemployment benefits.

The case reminds us that things are not always as they seem.  Here, the employee’s unique circumstances fit within a narrow exception in Minnesota’s unemployment statute.  The lesson is that jumping to conclusions about an employee’s situation can lead to costly litigation.

For more information about this article, please contact me at taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2011 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson, PA

July 16, 2011

Verizon to pay $20 million to settle EEOC disability lawsuit over attendance policy

Posted in Absenteeism, Attendance, Disability, Discrimination, Interactive Process, Job Abandonment, Leaves of Absence, Leaves of Absence, Reasonable Accommodation, Sick Leave tagged , , at 11:11 pm by Tom Jacobson

One size does not fit all when it comes to sick leave and attendance policies.  Verizon Communications recently learned that $20 million lesson in a nationwide disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

At issue was Verizon’s “no-fault” attendance policy.   Under this policy, Verizon employees who accumulated “chargeable absences,” were placed on a disciplinary step, and that could eventually result in more serious disciplinary action, including discharge.  According to the EEOC, the problem was that when applying this policy, Verizon failed to make exceptions for employees with disabilities, and this lead to a failure to reasonably accommodate them under the ADA.

In the consent decree (which is still pending court approval), Verizon agreed to pay $20 million.  In addition, Verizon agreed to a number of other non-monetary concessions.  For example, Verizon agreed to revise its attendance policies, provide mandatory training on the ADA, post a notice about the settlement, appoint an internal consent decree monitor to ensure its compliance, and report to the EEOC about all employee disability discrimination complaints relating to the attendance policy or Verizon’s compliance with the consent decree.

The case illustrates that employers who are subject to the ADA must not overlook leaves of absence as a reasonable accommodation.  According to Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., Director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, “This [Verizon] settlement demonstrates the need for employers to have attendance policies which take into account the need for paid or unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities.”  And, as noted by EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez, “Hopefully this nationwide decree will further public awareness of the importance of engaging in an individualized interactive process to determine whether a disabled employee must be accommodated under the ADA.”

For more information about this article, see Verizon to Pay $20 Million to Settle Nationwide EEOC Disability Suit, or please contact me at taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2011 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson, PA

June 30, 2011

Parades, puppies and the “Fargo” woodchipper

Posted in Attendance, Breaks, Computer Use, Confidential Information, Contracts, Employee Privacy, Fair Labor Standards Act, Hours Worked, Leaves of Absence, Leaves of Absence, Overtime, Record Keeping, Social Media in the Workplace, Telework / Telecommuting, Vacation Policies tagged , , at 8:51 am by Tom Jacobson

Last week I took a staycation.  Despite the fact that it was one of the rainiest June weeks on record for our neck of the woods, we had a great time. We watched two parades and a swim meet, spent time with our son who is home on leave from the Air Force Academy, and we played with our litter of Labrador pups .  We even took a side-trip to Fargo to see the wood chipper from the movie, Fargo.  And, except for my first day off when I needed to put out a fire that started the day before, I managed to not check my work e-mail or voice mail for a week.

But what if I had checked my e-mail or voice mail?  What if I had texted my secretary or my clients?  What if I had decided to post this commentary from home during one of those downpours?  Telecommuting, or “telework,” would have allowed me to turn my staycation into a working vacation.

Telecommuting offers tremendous benefits.  It allows for flexible work arrangements.  It can save on fuel and other transportation costs.  It can keep employees productive when circumstances would otherwise prevent them from working.

But telecommuting can also be a trap for the unwary.  Aside from the fact that it can distract us from our R&R, working remotely raises a number of employer-employee issues, such as:

* How are working hours tracked for an employee who works remotely?

* Is the telecommuting employee getting the break time to which s/he may be legally entitled?

* Is the employee entitled to overtime when the hours worked remotely are added to his/her workweek?

* Is an employee really on “leave” if s/he is working remotely while supposedly taking time off?

* Is the employee entitled to any tax deductions for a “home office”?

* To what extent is an employee entitled to worker’s compensation benefits if s/he is injured while working from home, and does this give the employer the right to inspect the employee’s home for safety concerns?

* How secure is the employer’s data if an employee is accessing it from or storing it on his/her home computer?

* What privacy rights, if any, does an employee have with respect to his/her cell phone, computer, etc. that is used to work remotely?

* Which jobs work best for telecommuting arrangements?

* What is lost (or in come cases, gained) when telecommuting co-workers do not have face-to-face contact?

* How can the employer be assured that the teleworking employee is actually working?

To avoid falling into a telecommuting trap, employers need to understand the risks, as well as the rewards, of remote working arrangements.  Then, by developing telecommuting agreements and policies,  employers can take full advantage of the benefits that telecommuting can offer.  For more information about the development and use of such policies and agreements, please contact me at taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2011 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson, PA

October 29, 2010

Employees’ election day rights expanded by 2010 change in Minnesota law

Posted in Election Day, Election Day, Leaves of Absence tagged , , at 4:37 pm by Tom Jacobson

With election day just around the corner, employers need to be mindful of a 2010 change which broadens the rights of Minnesota employees to miss work to vote.

Previously, employees had the right to be absent to vote during the morning of an election.  The “morning” limitation has been lifted, and employees may now be absent  for the time necessary to appear at the employee’s polling place, cast a ballot, and return to work on the day of the election.  Employers are still prohibited from interfering with that right, and violation of this law is still a misdemeanor.

The law does not apply to every election, but it does apply to the November 2, 2010 mid-terms.

For more information on how this change affects an employer’s election day obligations, please contact me.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

September 28, 2010

HR policy development, part 3 of 3: attendance and job abandonment under the FMLA and USERRA

Posted in Absenteeism, Employee Handbooks, Family and Medical Leave Act, Job Abandonment, Leaves of Absence, Leaves of Absence, Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act tagged , , , , at 10:55 am by Tom Jacobson

In the first segment of this three-part series, I noted that having and following a well-written sexual harassment policy can help provide an effective defense to sexual harassment claims.  In the second installment, I pointed out how reasonable personnel policies can provide the foundation for defining employment misconduct for the purposes of a Minnesota unemployment claim.  In this final installment, the topic is leaves of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA); the case is To v. US Bancorp.

In the To case, US Bank had strict “Reporting Absences” and “Job Abandonment” policies.  The policies required certain call-in procedures and return-to-work documentation.  To missed work for medical reasons and for National Guard service, but he failed to follow the bank’s call-in and reporting procedures, so the bank terminated his employment.

To sued US Bank under the FMLA and USERRA, but the court threw out his case.  With regard to To’s FMLA claims, the court noted that To had not complied with the bank’s policies for reporting absences, and “Employers who enforce such policies by firing employees on FMLA leave for noncompliance do not violate the FMLA.”

To’s USERRA claims were based in part on a portion of USERRA which states that reemployed service members “shall not be discharged from such employment, except for cause” for specified periods of time.  After noting that under USERRA, “An employer has just cause to terminate an employee who does not comply with a known company policy,” the court held that To’s failure to follow US Bank’s handbook policies gave US Bank just cause for To’s discharge.

Read together, the To, Gaustad and Cross cases all underscore the importance of developing and applying effective employment policies.  Such policies not only frame the expecations that employers may have for their employees, but they can also provide important defenses to many employment-related claims.  In sum, developing and applying effective employment policies are crucial to business success.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

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