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

Teacher in Minnesota questions school programs, faces retaliation

Most people are highly appreciative of the hard work and dedication it takes to be a teacher in America. We all know that these jobs are underfunded and highly scrutinized, so it takes a special type of person to be willing to be a teacher. And, when teachers try to help their students and the school districts they work for, they should be applauded, not punished. But, according to a recent report, one such teacher from Minnesota did not receive a positive result for his efforts.

The recent report indicates that the teacher, a black male, has alleged in a lawsuit that he faced race-based retaliation for questioning certain educational programs at his school district in St. Paul. At the time, the man was a fourth-grade teacher.

What should you know about gender discrimination and unequal pay?

Gender discrimination can be the result of several different types of illegal conduct on the part of an employer. For instance, an employer may hire a male instead of a female for a position that they are both qualified for, just because of the difference in gender. Or, an employer may assign a male employee to a certain task over a female employee, simply because of a perceived difference in their competence level based on gender. And, in one of the most common instances of gender discrimination, an employer may pay employees differently just because of their gender, even if they are doing the same job, at the same place, requiring the same types of job skills.

What should our readers know about gender discrimination and unequal pay in Minnesota? Well, for starters, it is important to realize that this type of wage discrimination has been illegal in America since 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was passed by the US Congress and signed into law. This particular law is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

On-the-job religious discrimination isn't 'the way things are done here'

In Minnesota workplaces, an illegal but all too common problem is employees being forced to choose between religious faithfulness and keeping their jobs.

For example, have you ever found yourself struggling to find time for prayer at the right times of the day because your work schedule isn't giving you time to do so? Have you ever had to choose between wearing what your culture expects and what your supervisor prefers?

Disability discrimination and the EEOC

Many of our readers are familiar with some of the basics functions of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from reading previous posts here. In essence, the EEOC investigates claims of discrimination in workplaces throughout the country, including in Minnesota. Disability discrimination is just one area the EEOC focuses on.

There are a few different ways in which disability discrimination can occur in the workplace. First, some people may not realize that even people who are just applying for a job - not actual employees - may have a claim if they believe they have been subjected to disability discrimination. Employment laws state that employers cannot reject an applicant simply due to a disability. If the applicant is qualified, the employer can hire the person and provide "reasonable accommodations" for the disability.

Discrimination based on gender and political views?

Anyone who even glimpses at a news channel these days will likely see a story about police officers, race relations and political views. It seems that these topics are inexhaustible sources of controversy. So, when some of these areas get mixed together, it can sometimes result in legal action.

According to a recent report, a female police officer with the Rochester Police Department has settled a lawsuit she filed after she was placed on administrative leave for posting her thoughts on politics and race on Facebook. The officer, who was a lieutenant with the police department, alleged that she had received unfair treatment. The resulting settlement was for a total of $1 million, of which $600,000 went to the female officer and the rest went toward her legal fees.

All employees in Minneapolis have rights -- know yours

When most people in the Minneapolis area think of employee rights, they probably think of legal cases involving claims of sexual harassment or discrimination. This is understandable. Cases across the nation that involve these types of allegations can be high-profile, putting employers on the spot to explain the illegal discrimination that is occurring in the workplace. But, employees have many other rights as well. And they should know what they are.

For instance, many employees are allowed to take unpaid leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act. Leave under this Act is intended to allow employees to take care of the medical needs of family members, or themselves, and then be able to return to their position of employment. However, some employers abuse employee rights under this law, failing to restore employees to their former positions or, in some cases, outright terminating them for exercising their rights under the law.

How do you know if it is sexual harassment or simple teasing?

No one likes to be teased. Many of our readers who have children have likely seen "anti-bullying" commercials when their kids are watching cartoons. In some workplaces, it seems like they should have the same message. And, in some cases, the teasing goes too far, especially when it comes to the type of teasing that is sexual in nature. So, how do our readers know whether or not they have been the subject of sexual harassment, or simple teasing?

The difference is important, but sometimes hard to distinguish. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, certain types of behavior - although they may be offensive - don't rise to the level of sexual harassment. "Isolated incidents" and "offhand comments," as the EEOC describes them, don't necessarily constitute sexual harassment.

Race discrimination lawsuit in Minnesota results in settlement

Many of our readers in Minnesota may know that not every lawsuit that is filed will go to trial. In fact, the vast majority are disposed of in another manner, and settlement is one of the most common results to a lawsuit. Employment discrimination claims are particularly prone to settlement, which can be beneficial to all involved, as a settlement does away with the need to go through expensive and time-consuming litigation, and can also provide the injured party with the compensation he or she needs.

But, sometimes, an employer will be subject to more requirements when it settles an employment discrimination claim. For instance, a recent report noted that a construction company in Minnesota that is settling a race discrimination lawsuit will not only have to pay $125,000, it will also have to make changes to its employee handbook on discrimination complaints, train management personnel at the company on race discrimination protection law and report all race-based harassment or discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the course of a two-year period of time.

Finding the right whistleblower protection laws in Minnesota

When most Minnesota residents get up and go to work in the morning, they aren't thinking about what they would do if they found out that their employer was breaking the law. For most people, they just want to do their job, do it well and provide for their family. But, what happens if you do find yourself in a position where you discover that your employer is violating the law? In this type of situation, it is important to know that you will likely be protected by the law if you inform the proper authorities about the illegal conduct.

These so-called "whistleblower" protections are actually quite common in federal law. For instance, several environmental laws have protections for employees who report employers who are violating laws by creating safety or health hazards in the workplace, or employers who are damaging the environment in some way.

Pursuing an age discrimination claim in Minnesota

Many of our readers have likely seen news reports about how the American workforce is aging. Indeed, the so-called, "baby boomer" generation is starting to reach retirement age. But, many older workers remain vital employees.

Unfortunately, some employers may feel the urge to go "younger and cheaper," when it comes to their human resources issues. They may feel that they can create more efficiency by taking this route. If an employer in Minnesota decides to terminate an employee based on that person's age, the employer could be open to an age discrimination claim.

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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