John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
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Minneapolis Wrongful Termination Law Blog

Obama targets wage discrimination with new reporting rules

Minnesota employees who believe they are paid less because of their gender, race or ethnicity might be victims of discrimination. However, there are ways to address these situations and employees nationwide got some help recently from the Obama administration. Under new rules announced in January, private companies that employ more than 100 workers will be required to report salary data by race, ethnicity and gender on a form submitted annually to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are required to maintain records necessary to determine whether unlawful employment discrimination is occurring at their workplaces and to produce reports prescribed by the EEOC. Since 1966, the EEOC has collected data regarding employee race, gender and ethnicity on the EEO-1 survey, which is filed each year by covered employers.

ERISA and how it protects Minnesota employees

It is important for workers in Minnesota to understand the various laws that are in place to protect them and provide them with employee benefits in the present and in the future. One particular law that is meant to ensure retirement funds are protected is ERISA. ERISA stands for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Passed in 1974, it is designed to make certain that the person's retirement plans will be available at the time they choose to retire. With ERISA, there are minimum standards that private companies have to follow.

If there is a retirement plan at a job, ERISA will say when the worker is allowed to join it, how long the worker has to be at the job before there is a non-forfeitable interest in the benefit, how long the worker can be away from the job before it affects the benefits, and if the spouse is able to be part of the benefits package after death. ERISA does not force employers to establish any retirement plan. It simply makes sure that when there is a retirement plan, it adheres to the applicable standards.

Minnesota-based employer settles employment discrimination case

Minneapolis residents work hard to earn a living to support themselves and their families. While it can be challenging enough to earn a living in a competitive workplace, that challenge is made far worse for those who are not treated as equals with their coworkers.

Fortunately, when employers act in an unlawful manner, employees may have a legal claim they can assert for workplace discrimination. A host of federal and state laws prohibit various types of employment discrimination, and employers can be held accountable under these laws when they unlawfully discriminate against employees.

Federal law protects Minnesota workers from employer retaliation

State and federal law protects Minnesota employees from workplace discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, gender, disability and age. Unfortunately, when an employee files a complaint some employers react by terminating the employee or taking other action in retaliation for the employee asserting his or her rights.

This kind of retaliation is a violation of federal law. The laws that prohibit workplace discrimination also prohibit employers from demoting, terminating or otherwise penalizing employees who file discrimination claims. These laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and they are separate and distinct from the laws that protect whistleblowers from retaliation when they raise legal or ethical concerns about an employer's conduct.

Muslim employees fired because they took short breaks to pray

This month, more than 50 Muslim employees at a Wisconsin company were shocked to discover that they would no longer be allowed to take two five-minute breaks to pray during the work day. Even worse, some of the employees were fired for continuing to pray at set times of day instead of waiting until a company-scheduled break.

Writing unneeded prescriptions allegedly put $40,000 in one doctor's pocket

For more than three years, a 58-year-old doctor in Bloomington, Minnesota, prescribed a topical pain relief cream to the majority of her patients. This special cream was sold exclusively at a certain Best Aid pharmacy. Now, the U.S. Attorney's Office is charging the doctor with health care fraud, among other offenses.

CBS Minnesota reports that the manager and the pharmacist at the Best Aid store are also facing charges of Medicare and Medicaid fraud. They allegedly paid the doctor tens of thousands of dollars to prescribe the pain relief cream to her patients -- even when those patients didn't need it. Then they gave the patients a knock-off version of the product and billed Medicare and Medicaid for the pricier version.

Delay in awards for SEC whistleblower program

When an employee in Minnesota decides to "blow the whistle" on an employer for illegal actions, there is the general understanding that the employee will be protected after filing such a claim. Moreover, in some instances, a whistleblower's rights also include the ability to collect an award related to the claim. However, whistleblowers might have to wait some time until they are paid off.

The whistleblower program that is part of the Securities and Exchange Commission has generally promised to move quickly on any useful information provided to them regarding potential wrongdoings. However, the agency has had some difficultly this year living up to those terms. This has resulted in a large delay in paying of tipsters.

Athletic director of UMN accused of sexual harassment

As previous posts discussed, sexual harassment in the workplace can be a very uncomfortable situation for employees, and it is often a difficult incident to discuss or report. However, these are incidents that should be reported and addressed. When employees believe that they are a victim of sexual harassment in the work environment, it is important that the employees understand that they have options and recourses available to them.

According to recent reports, the athletic director of the University of Minnesota's athletic department, Norwood Teague, resigned from his position in August following a sexual harassment claim. These claims occurred a few weeks before his departure, and two high-level university administrators who claimed Teague sexually harassed them at a senior leadership retreat filed them.

Who can make an ADA violation claim?

When a person with disabilities is hired by an employer, or a current employee develops a disability, employers in Minnesota and elsewhere need to take certain steps to better accommodate the individual. If an employer fails to carryout such action, this could be considered a violation of the Americans with Disability Act, more commonly referred to as the "ADA."

Who can make an ADA violation claim for not having reasonable accommodations? Both job applicants and employees are able to make an ADA violation claim if they believe that an employer or potential employer has not taken reasonable steps to accommodate the individual with a disability.

Sexual harassment investigation following a claim by an employee

When employees in Minnesota and elsewhere believe that they are victims of sexual harassment, it is often difficult to speak up or file a report or claim. It is often an uncomfortable situation, and many employees might not fully understand what it means to file an action against a harasser. Because of that, it is important be become familiar with the process and what a sexual harassment investigation entails.

When an employee files a sexual harassment claim, it must meet the definition of "sexual harassment." This is outlined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, and defines sexual harassment as unwelcomed behavior that is sexual in nature and explicitly or implicitly affects the victim's terms or conditions of employment, unreasonably interferes with the victim's work performance or causes an intimidating, offensive or hostile work environment.

Defending the Civil Rights of Vulnerable People

When employers discriminate or allow harassment and retaliation to take place or continue, we are dedicated to holding them accountable for their unlawful actions.

John A. Klassen, PA
Attorneys at Law
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