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

The tort of wrongful discharge in Minnesota

While this blog has discussed it on previous occasions, it may be helpful to review the basics of Minnesota's wrongful discharge claim, which is available to employees under the common law of Minnesota. Sometimes, Minneapolis residents might get confused about the difference between wrongful discharge and other legal claims based on an illegal or discriminatory firing.

In fact, there are a number of ways that employers can run afoul of the law when firing an employee. If there is an employment contract in force, for instance, then an employee who gets fired can sue for a breach of contract and demand compensation for the financial losses they suffered by not getting the benefit of their bargain. Likewise, there are state and federal statutes, which allow a victim to collect back pay, as well as attorney fees, when an employer violates anti-discrimination or certain anti-whistleblower provisions in the law. In Minnesota, the courts have also identified a wrongful discharge claim, which may apply to certain circumstances.

Concern over how new overtime claim rules impacts workers

One of the biggest issues over which Minnesota workers embark on a dispute with their employer is due to an overtime claim. Since unpaid overtime can violate employee rights, it is imperative to understand the law and when it is possible to lodge a claim to receive what is owed.

A significant part of that is to know how the United States Department of Labor determines when workers should receive overtime pay. Another issue is how employers might try to manipulate worker hours and use technicalities to avoid paying. When there is a disagreement about overtime, having legal help can sift through it and assist workers in getting what they are owed.

New overtime rules may benefit Minnesota workers

After years of delay, the United States Department of Labor has revised federal overtime rules. These rules mean that 1.3 million salaried employees across the country, including in many in Minnesota, will either see a reduction in the number of hours they are expected to work, an increase in their base pay, or more overtime.

To give background, under federal law, the general rule is that an affected employer must pay overtime, set at 150% of an employee's hourly wage, for any time an employee is expected to work more than 40 hours a week or the equivalent. However, many professional, executive, managerial, and other administrative employees who customarily draw a flat salary do not get the benefit of these rules if they get paid a high enough annual wage.

Age discrimination has harmful effects on the state's economy

To follow up on a recent post, some experts say that the persistent problem of age discrimination in the workplace could adversely affect Minnesota's economy. At present, this state has about 140,000 unfilled positions, yet only about 70,000 people are actively looking for work. Should this trend continue, by 2024 Minnesota will have a shortfall of about 400,000 jobs, with 2.7 million people available to fill 3.1 million positions.

Adults who are in their 60s and 70s currently account for about 25% of the workplace, and people in this age group could be used to fill many of these open positions that are on the horizon. However, the trouble is that there is a continued perception, or prejudice, that older workers do not contribute to the value of a corporation in the same way that younger workers can.

Your rights if you report an employer for medical insurance fraud

Working in medicine can be a lucrative career. Unfortunately, some people aren't happy with the income their practice generates, which motivates them to take questionable or even illegal actions to increase their overall income. Insurance billing fraud, whether it involves private insurance companies or government programs like Medicaid and Medicare, is one way that medical offices can increase their income, even if it is illegal.

In medical offices, fraudulent billing practices can be a real concern. Doctors, business managers or billing specialists could intentionally enter inaccurate billing information. In some cases, practices unbundle services typically billed at one discounted rate to charge more. They may bill for a more expensive procedure than the one the doctor performed. Some doctors will bill for procedures they did not perform or even perform unnecessary procedures to bill insurance companies for them.

Study shows age discrimination prevalent across the spectrum

People above a certain age in Minnesota and across the nation will be aware of the possibility that their age could be a hindrance in their employment. Although age discrimination is illegal, it still happens frequently. While justifications could be provided by employers and others in a position of power in a workplace, if there is suspicion or proof that a person's age had a negative effect on their employment or attempts to get a job, it could be the basis to file a lawsuit to seek their employee rights.

A new study from Hiscox shows that age discrimination is not limited to individuals, but could be a systemic issue. The researchers found that for people over 40, 21 percent were subjected to age discrimination at work. And, 80 percent stated that it hindered their ability to rise in their career.

What does it mean that Minnesota is an at-will state?

Like most other states, Minnesota is what the law calls an "at-will" state. In general, this means that an employer, at least a non-unionized workplace, can fire an employee at any time and for just about any reason. Likewise, an employee is allowed to quit work at any time and for any reason.

There are some important exceptions to this rule. Although not the norm, many employers offer their employees contracts, and many of these contracts have rules about when an employer may and may not fire an employee.

#MeToo movement may have unintended negative consequences

The #MeToo movement, which has involved a backlash against sexual harassment at the workplace, has generally been a good thing, especially for women. In a wide range of work environments, the #MeToo movement has made it more likely that both men and women will report sexual harassment promptly and will try to avoid even the appearance of inappropriate behavior.

However, one possible drawback to the movement, if it can be described as such, is that some men and even a handful of women with hiring authority have indicated that they are willing to discriminate against women, ostensibly to avoid sexual harassment claims. Specifically, over 20% of men and 12% of women with hiring authority admitted that they would be less likely to hire women when the position would require traveling or other close collaboration with the opposite sex. Of course, there may be many others who would be unwilling to admit this form of bias.

Employees are protected after taking FMLA leave

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, has been a mainstay in employment law for about a generation now. Basically, the FMLA allows many, if not most, employees to take a leave of absence from work for their own documented medical reason, including pregnancy and childbirth, or to take care of certain sick relatives.

During an FMLA leave, an employer must hold the job of the absent employee open or be ready to offer an equivalent position when the employee returns. Although the leave of absence need not be a paid leave, an employer cannot discriminate against or try to punish an employee for taking a valid FMLA leave, whether during the leave itself or after the employee returns to work.

Are there time constraints to claim employment discrimination?

Despite greater attention being paid to worker rights in Minnesota and across the U.S., workplace discrimination and employment discrimination is an ongoing problem. Frequently, victims are not certain as to what their rights are and how to go about filing a claim due to this type of discrimination. This can result in missing the time limits. For anyone who even suspects their employee rights were violated, knowing the time limits to file a charge is critical.

There is generally a time limit of 180 calendar days from when the discrimination took place. If, however, the enforcement is based on a law prohibiting employment discrimination and it is from a state or local agency, it can be extended to 300 days.

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
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