April 22, 2016

Registration Open for 13th Annual Employment Law Update

Posted in Discrimination, Fair Labor Standards Act, Reasonable Accommodation tagged , , , , at 11:13 am by Tom Jacobson

Swenson Lervick Law FirmPlease join us for the 13th Annual West Central Minnesota Employment Law Update at the Alexandria Technical and Community College on Thursday, June 2, 2016!

This year’s topics include:

  • Hot off the Press — Employment Law News You Can Use
  • The Changing Nature of Accommodation
  • New FLSA Developments and Salary Rules
  • Legal Considerations for Transgender Employees

This annual Employment Law Update will again focus on the significant changes and updates to employment law issues and provide current information and resources in a variety of important areas. In addition, the event will include an informative panel discussion with employement law attorneys who will answer your questions about the featured sessions and other timely topics on employment law. SHRM CP, SCP, and HRCI credits are approved for the sessions, with certificate information available for attendees.

Presenting attorneys will be Tom Jacobson, Mike Moberg, Sara McGrane and Penelope Phillips.

PLUS…this year’s attendees will also enjoy this Bonus HR Session:

Cultivate Courage” presented by Dave Cornell. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer, and personal development and leadership coach, provides a variety of services to individuals and organizations, all designed to help people be better than they think they can be and do things they think might not be possible: see opportunities instead of roadblocks, embrace change and create a vision for new possibilities, and transform and energize from the inside out.

Please see the full seminar Agenda and Registration information on the attached flyers.

Seating is limited. Registrations are due by May 23, 2016.

We hope to see you there!

October 22, 2015

Nursing Mothers’ Rights

Posted in Breastfeeding & Nursing Mothers' Rights, Discrimination, Gender / Sex tagged , , , , , , at 10:21 am by Tom Jacobson

BabyThough it’s been done since the beginning of time, breastfeeding in public made waves this summer when our local paper asked for comments from its readers (see It’s Your Turn: Facebook readers share thoughts on breastfeeding, Echo Press Sept. 4, 2015; A mom’s dilemma, Echo Press Sept. 4, 2015). The waves have calmed, but they exposed misunderstanding about nursing mothers’ rights. Let’s clear the air, in particular with regard to the rights of mothers who need to express breast milk while at work.

First, nursing a child in public is perfectly legal in Minnesota. Breastfeeding is an exception to the state’s prohibition of indecent exposure.

Second, mothers who need to express breast milk while at work have the right to do so in most Minnesota workplaces. This has been the law in Minnesota since 1998, but these rights were expanded in 2014 as a part of the Women’s Economic Security Act. The following will address some of the most common questions about this law.

What basic benefit does the law require employers to provide? Employers must provide reasonable unpaid break time each day to an employee who needs to express breast milk for her infant child.


When must the break be provided? The break time must, if possible, run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee.


What space must the employer provide for the break? The employer must make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, in close proximity to the work area, other than a bathroom or a toilet stall, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public and that includes access to an electrical outlet, where the employee can express her milk in privacy.


Are there any exceptions to the law? Yes. An employer is not required to provide break time under this law if doing so would unduly disrupt the employer’s operations.


Are all Minnesota employers covered by this law? Yes. The law defines “employer” to include “a person or entity that employs one or more employees and includes the state and its political subdivisions.”


What other protections does the law provide to employees? Employers must not retaliate against an employee for asserting rights or remedies the law.


What remedies are available to an employee if an employer breaks this law? Employees may bring a civil action to recover monetary damages, plus their court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees. They may also seek injunctive and other equitable relief to be determined by a court.


Is there a state agency that could get involved in disputes regarding this law? Yes. The Minnesota Department of Labor’s Division of Labor Standards and Apprenticeship has been given the authority to receive complaints of employees against employers relating to this law. The division’s role is to attempt to resolve employee complaints by informing employees and employers of the provisions of the law and directing employers to comply with it. The division is required contact the employer within two business days and investigate the complaint within ten days of receipt of the complaint.

For more information about the rights of nursing mothers or guidance on how to develop or enforce policies and procedures to address these rights, 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 2015 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz Cass, PA

March 26, 2015

Pregnancy Accommodation Claims Revived by US Supreme Court in Young v. UPS

Posted in Discrimination, Gender / Sex, Pregnancy, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Leave, Reasonable Accommodation, Women's Economic Security Act tagged , , , , , at 11:56 pm by Tom Jacobson

pregnancy accommodation

Me, in 1991, wearing the “empathy belly” in Lamaze class the day before our first son was born.

In a 6-3 decision the U.S. Supreme Court this week revived Peggy Young’s pregnancy accommodation claims against UPS. The high court’s decision clarifies how the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is to be applied to pregnant employees who work for employers that accommodate employees with nonpregnancy-related disabilities.

The PDA is a 1978 addition to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law has two main parts. First, it says that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination applies to discrimination “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” Second, it says that employers must treat “women affected by pregnancy . . . the same for all employment-related purposes . . . as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.”

At issue in Young’s case was the fact that after she became pregnant, her doctor imposed a 20 pound lifting restriction. UPS had a 70 pound lifting requirement for drivers like Young, so they told her she could not work while under that restriction. Young, however, presented evidence that UPS accommodated other workers who suffered on-the-job injuries, had ADA-qualifying disabilities, or had lost their Department of Transportation certifications. Thus, Young claimed that UPS violated the PDA by accommodating the other workers but not those who were pregnant.

The District Court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals both rejected Young’s claims, but the Supreme Court disagreed with the lower courts and revived her case. In so doing, the court established the following framework for proving that a woman was subjected to disparate treatment under the pregnancy accommodation requirements of the PDA.

First, the woman must present evidence that: (a) she belongs to the protected class; (b) she sought accommodation; (c) the employer did not accommodate her; and (d) the employer accommodated others “similar in their ability or inability to work.” If the employee proves that much, the employer may then try to justify its failure to accommodate by presenting evidence of “legitimate, nondiscriminatory” reasons for denying accommodation. If the employer does so, the employee may then try to rebut that evidence with evidence that the employer’s reason was a pretext (that is, a facade or cover-up of the real discriminatory reason).

The case clarifies that pregnancy accommodation claims can be brought under the PDA, and it establishes what must be proved in order to win such cases. Therefore, it is important for employers and employees to understand their respective rights and obligations under this law. In particular they need to recognize that employers must accommodate pregnant employees if they accommodate nonpregnant employees who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.”

Finally, here’s a reminder for Minnesota employers and employees. The state’s Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA), which was passed in 2014, includes its own pregnancy accommodation requirements. This law only applies to Minnesota employers with 21 or more employees. The PDA, however, applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Consequently, smaller employers (15-20 employees) will only have to comply with the PDA, but larger ones will need to comply with both laws.

My wife and I with said first-born in 2014 at his graduation from the US Air Force Academy (not likely due to the empathy belly).

My wife and I in 2014 with said first-born at his graduation from the US Air Force Academy (not likely due to the empathy belly).

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 2015 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz, PA

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