John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
612-217-4988 877-390-4527

Minneapolis Wrongful Termination Law Blog

Why it can be hard to be a whistleblower

Most parents teach their kids to do what is right and to step up when it seems as though something is wrong. This foundational principle is instilled in kids at school, through their activities, and as parts of their local communities. A Minnesota youth may carry that message with them as they grow into a competent adult and may take that value with them when they transition into their career.

It can, therefore, feel natural for a person to feel compelled to speak up when they see their employer doing something wrong. Not all legal infractions committed by employers are intentional; an employee may find that they have discovered an otherwise latent issue and that their illumination of the issue is welcomed by their employer.

What contributes to a hostile working environment?

When an employer's or coworker's actions and behavior make it impossible to continue working in one's office and thereby alter the expectations of a comfortable workplace, a hostile workplace can said to have been created. But what behavior and language counts towards its legal requirements?

A bad boss, an obnoxious coworker or a failure to qualify for a promotion might all be reasons a Minnesota employee might find their work environment unsupportive or unfriendly. As difficult as it is to continue working in such a workplace, it is not necessary that the behavior amount to a hostile working environment. Firstly, the actions must be discriminatory in nature, as per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For example, if an obnoxious coworker is telling sexually explicit jokes and distributing nude images, this could amount to sexual harassment and create a hostile work environment. The discrimination therefore needs to be against a protected classification, such as age, religion, disability or race.

By when should my final paycheck be paid after I quit?

Just because an individual has quit their job voluntarily does not mean they are no longer entitled to the wages and commissions they have earned until that point. This is the law in Minnesota, regardless of whether the employee was fired, terminated or left their job voluntarily.

If the employee was involuntarily let go then their final wages and commissions are due either on separation or within 24 hours of the employee's demand for them. If the employee has quit, the time limits vary a little. Generally, the remaining remunerations should be paid on the next scheduled payday. If the regularly scheduled payday is within the next five days of the last day of work, then an employer has until that day to make it. However, all wages and commissions must be paid within 20 days of the last day. If an employer does not pay in a timely fashion, employees have the right to demand their wages.

A disability should not be a bar to finding a job

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a broad piece of legislation that is intended to protect disabled Americans from the discriminatory practices of employers, governments, and other entities. A person who qualifies as disabled under the definition of the law may invoke its protections when another party has acted in a prohibited and illegal way. It is an unfortunate truth that disability discrimination often occurs when disabled Minnesota residents are seeking employment.

Employers may avoid hiring disabled applicants for many reasons. They may fear that individuals who require accommodations will require more time off from work or that they will be unable to keep up with the demands of the positions they have been hired to fill. Employers may harbor their own unfounded biases and may allow wrongly held beliefs to prevent them from giving consideration to applicants that are disabled.

Pregnancy discrimination root of case against retailer

When a Minneapolis resident gets pregnant, they may want to shout it from the rooftops and let everyone know about the exciting changes coming up ahead for them. Unfortunately, if they are afraid of losing their job because they have become pregnant, it can put a huge damper on their excitement. This is why many people may not be aware that it is illegal to discriminate against pregnant workers.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act forbids discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. The U.S. Supreme Court has often taken this to mean that pregnant women are entitled to the same accommodations that disabled people are. As a result, many workers have filed lawsuits against their employers and recent lawsuits against Walmart demonstrate that employers are still not taking their legal obligations seriously.

Understanding disparate treatment and impact in the workplace

Discrimination in the workplace can take many forms, and some of them are not always easy to identify or recognize. For instance, many parties within an office may believe that they are not discriminating if they treat everyone the exact same way, because they are treating each person "equally." However, treating every person the exact same way can lead to its own form of discrimination, in which one party suffers because of equal treatment. This is known as disparate impact.

This can create many tensions in a workplace, so it is wise to examine potential problems closely to make sure that you do not allow a coworker or superior to discriminate against you, or to ensure that you do not discriminate against someone else. A clear understanding of the differences between disparate treatment discrimination and disparate impact discrimination can help you navigate these tricky issues.

Termination and different categories of employees

Just because a Minnesota resident has been terminated from their job does not mean they no longer have any rights. To understand what these rights are, it is important to know first what category one's employment falls under.

An at-will employee is the most common form of employment in the country. This implies that employers and employees can both terminate their relationship with one another without any reason at any time. The only restriction is that termination cannot be for an unlawful reason or that it is not contrary to any agreement made between the parties. Unlawful termination could be found to exist if firing violates public policy, if it was because the employer was a whistleblower, if the termination is in pursuance of discriminatory practices or was against the term of an implied contract.

Employees may not be discriminated against due to their religions

One of the many freedoms that individuals in the United States enjoy is the freedom to practice or not practice a religion of their own choosing. A person may be raised in one faith as a child and later in life may choose to abandon it for another. The government cannot interfere with that right, and, as such, Minnesota residents are free to practice any religion they wish.

Despite this important freedom afforded by the First Amendment, many individuals have faced discrimination by their employers. Religious discrimination is prohibited in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but some employers still use their employees' religion as a basis to deny them employment opportunities.

ERISA violators can be penalized

When signing an employee contract, Minnesota residents expect to see some provisions about their pensions, retirement plans and health insurance plans. Upon seeing them, many sign on the dotted line without actually knowing what those plans are, what laws they are being provided under and what happens if an employer fails to pay these benefits.

The Employment Retirement Income Security Act is the federal law that exists to protect employees who are working for private, for profit employers. Not only does ERISA establish the minimums that should be provided by employers, but it also gives employees being covered certain rights. When there is a failure to pay these benefits, employers can even be held liable through a range of penalties and punishments authorized by ERISA. An employer is supposed to provide participants about information about the plan they are going to be enrolled in and how the plan is going to be financed. Additionally, it also places fiduciary duties on those who are supposed to manage the assets covered by the plan. Lastly, it also lays out a procedure for grievances under the plan as well as the appeals process for grievances.

Family leave policies could reflect sex discrimination

One or the rights employees who have just become parents have is maternity leave, under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Parents of newborns get 12 weeks of unpaid family leave and many states have begun supplementing that with paid family leave that uses a state payroll tax pool. Additionally, companies have begun implementing family-leave policies that cross state borders and benefit families across the board.

General Mills employees, including those in Minnesota, will be able to spend more time bonding with their babies or get more time to take care of aging parents, starting January 1. Beginning next year, all new parents will get 12 weeks paid time off-new birth moms can get another six to eight weeks for their physical recovery. This could bump up paid parental leave to between 18 and 20 weeks-at full pay. This represents a huge change from the current parental leave policy, which is at six weeks paid time off. Fathers and adoptive parents get two weeks paid off. Additionally, caregivers would get two weeks off to deal with an immediate family member's illness, at full pay. Benefits also improve short-term disability and have expanded bereavement leave as well.

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
310 4th Avenue South     
Suite 5010      
Minneapolis, MN 55415     
Phone: 612-217-4988
Toll Free: 877-390-4527
Fax: 612-204-4534
Map and Directions