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

Minneapolis Wrongful Termination Law Blog

Mandatory arbitration of sexual harassment claims under scrutiny

Many Minnesotans may know of the conglomerate Ernst & Young, which is identified as one of the "Big Four" accounting firms in the nation. However, the company is coming under scrutiny for its mandatory arbitration policy. The issue came to the forefront after a female employee of the accounting giant came forward with a sexual harassment claim.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint the woman filed, she and other women at the company were consistently subjected to offensive sexual comments about their bodies, which were made by male employees. However, per company policy, she was required to have her claim go through mandatory arbitration -- a process in which she was charged the exorbitant fee of $185,000. Her attorney stated that if she had her claim go before a judge in court it only would have cost her $450 in court fees.

Can allegations of misconduct affect unemployment compensation?

Losing a job in Minnesota can be a worrisome experience. Regardless of the reason for job loss, people can be fearful as to how they will make ends meet and what steps they must take to get back to the workforce. Unemployment compensation is a part of employee rights and can be a lifeline for people to stay above water as they seek a new job. However, a common problem many face is if the employer claims the former employee committed misconduct. This can prevent the worker from getting the unemployment benefits he or she would otherwise been entitled.

Knowing the definition of employment misconduct under the law is a critical part of combating the allegations and getting the unemployment compensation. Employment misconduct would be a worker behaving in a negligent, indifferent way on or off the job and doing so intentionally. That must be shown via clear evidence that the employee committed a serious violation as to the behavioral requirement the employer has the right to expect and there was a significant lack of concern for the job.

Is the ADA's prohibition on disability discrimination absolute?

Those in Minneapolis who are hunting for a job may face a long road ahead of them. Sometimes it takes many job applications and several interviews before a person lands the job they've been looking for. Those who have a disability may be fearful that they won't be hired due to their disability. However, per the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), employers cannot engage in disability discrimination against qualified job applicants with a disability.

What is important to remember, though, is that job applicants with a disability must still be able to meet the job requirements and perform the "essential functions" of the job if they're provided with "reasonable accommodations" that do not cause an employer to experience an "undue hardship." Employers do not have to hire applicants who cannot perform the essential functions of the job even if the applicant is provided with a reasonable accommodation, but employers cannot refuse to hire a qualified applicant with a disability if the disability only prevents the applicant form performing minor duties that are not considered essential to the position.

Wage discrimination a major issue in professional sports

When the U.S. women's national soccer team won the World Cup, the fact that they were paid significantly less than the U.S. men's national soccer team, despite having a better record of wins, came to the forefront of the country's attention. The team has since filed a gender discrimination claim against the U.S. Soccer Federation. The claim is currently being mediated. However, even female athletes in Minnesota are experiencing employment discrimination based on gender and unequal wages.

For example, the Minnesota Lynx have four WNBA championship wins under their belts this decade, but they are not paid the same as their male counterparts, the Minnesota Timberwolves. Many female basketball players must play on teams abroad during the offseason in the U.S. in order to augment their salary. This is difficult for them physically and emotionally.

Sexual harassment has reduced, but gender harassment has risen

Sexual harassment was a concern in every workplace in Minnesota and across the nation. The social media attention paid to "me too" with the hashtag to emphasize it has had an impact on how women are treated in terms of reducing sexual harassment. Because these behaviors can be so damaging to a person's job and career and there is often fear of coming forward, any tactics to reduce its frequency are welcome. However, although research indicates there has been an improvement, there have been side effects to the increased scrutiny on sexual harassment. When there has been any level of mistreatment at work, sexual harassment or otherwise, having legal advice is key to decide how to proceed.

A study recently published regarding the me to movement says that workers have seen a reduction in unwanted sexual attention and being sexually coerced while working. In the study, 250 women were surveyed in 2016 and again in 2018. For the first survey, 25 percent said they had been subject to sexual coercion in 2016. By 2018, that reduced to 16 percent. Regarding undesired sexual attention, that went from 66 percent to 25 percent. This is undeniably positive. Still, there were other issues that could be problematic. Gender harassment has gotten worse.

Can employment discrimination take place at a job interview?

People in Minnesota who are hunting for a job may send out a lot of resumes to potential employers to secure a position they are happy with. So, when they finally land that job interview they may feel excited, yet nervous. They want to make sure they provide good answers to the questions the interviewer will ask them, but are there any questions that employers cannot ask prospective employees and that prospective employees do not have to answer?

There are questions employers cannot ask a prospective employee in a job interview. This is because prospective employees, just like regular employees, are protected by laws that prohibit employment discrimination. Questions based on a person's race, age, marital status, or other protected categories generally are not permitted.

Understand religious discrimination in the workplace

When you're living in America, the expectation is that you can practice any religion freely and be free from persecution as a result of the religion you choose. This also applies to the workplace.

Religious discrimination is fairly easy to understand: It means discriminating against a person based on their religious beliefs. That can mean treating both an employee or an applicant unfairly based on their religious preferences.

Constructive dismissal: a type of wrongful termination?

Not every instance of wrongful dismissal in Minneapolis takes place when an employer unlawfully retaliates against a worker. Sometimes an employer's actions are subtler. It may start with one or two ways that make working for that employer difficult, but if an employer makes the workplace so unbearable that a worker feels they can no longer work there, under certain circumstances the worker may have been subject to constructive dismissal.

Constructive dismissal is a type of wrongful termination. If, instead of firing a worker, the worker's employer makes the workplace so hostile and unbearable that the worker feels compelled to quit, this may constitute constructive dismissal. In cases of constructive dismissal, the worker feels forced to resign (even if it is technically voluntarily) because resigning was the only reasonable alternative given the intolerable working conditions.

Workers claim employee rights were violated with wage theft

While areas of employment disputes and complaints like sexual harassment, discrimination and other violations are getting significant attention in Minnesota and across the nation, one of the most common reasons for a legal complaint is still wage discrimination and wage theft. When workers are not paid what they are owed or do not get the benefits they are entitled to, they have the right to seek a legal resolution with help from an experienced employment law firm.

A new law that recently went into effect in the state sets out to hold companies responsible for not paying their workers and with it, construction workers are seeking wages they were not paid. The law became effective on July 1. The number of state investigators that examine allegations of wage theft has doubled. There will be a rise in investigations and the penalties for employer violations are more severe.

Minnesota and 21 other states file brief on LGBTQ worker rights

People in Minnesota may be surprised to hear that, despite the advancements made in LGBTQ rights, discrimination based on sexual orientation is not prohibited under federal law. Although Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on sex, the law does not specifically include sexual orientation or gender identity as part of that protected category. Therefore, in many states, LGBTQ workers can face employment discrimination that is entirely legal.

However, a coalition of 22 states, including Minnesota, have filed a "friend-of-the-court" brief with the United States Supreme Court stating that protections provided to workers through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should also apply to instances of discrimination involving sexual orientation and gender identity. The brief states that discrimination against LGBTQ workers prevents states from promoting equality. The brief also notes that such discrimination is stopping states from being able to protect workers' dignity, financial security and mental health. In addition, the brief states that the current bias negatively affects the states' economies, since a person who is fired or not hired due to their sexual orientation often need to go on public assistance.

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