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Minneapolis Employment Law Blog

McDonald's to fight decision over employer classification

Labor advocates in Minnesota and around the country might be monitoring developments relating to a series of complaints against McDonald's franchises being considered by the National Labor Relations Board. The board ruled on July 29 that the fast food company could be named as a joint employer in the complaints. McDonald's has long held that their restaurant franchises are independently run businesses. They say that the parent company should not be involved in disputes relating to such matters as wage and overtime laws.

A McDonald's representative said that the company would contest the ruling, but labor leaders say that the company has a great deal of influence over how its franchises are run. An example of this came to light in March 2014 after fast food workers in three states filed lawsuits. McDonald's software used to monitor labor costs was shown to prevent workers from clocking in if labor cost to sales percentage ratios were too high.

Former NFL player filing suit against Vikings

Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe is planning to move ahead with a lawsuit claiming that he was released after exposing anti-gay comments that were allegedly made by the Vikings special teams coach. According to the suit, at least one other player remembers the coach making the comments that suggested that gays should be rounded up and killed.

The Vikings reportedly investigated the coach and compiled a 150-page report that Kluwe says his attorney will ask to see in full. According to reports, there is evidence in the document to suggest that the coach acknowledged making the comments and that he would not disagree with the allegation if another player says that he heard those words. According to the Vikings report, the special teams coach gave the punter the highest grade out of all the player evaluators on the team.

Former administrator files claim against county

A former county administrator in Minnesota has added a new claim against his former employer. According to the former administrator, he was the victim of wrongful termination.

The Winona County Board of Commissioners fired the man in May after an external investigation implicated him in being improperly involved in a potential solar-energy project. The investigation found that his wife worked for the company that was proposing the project and he did not share this information. He asked for permission to speak publicly before the board about the termination. However, the process was pulled from the agenda at the hearing when he was supposed to speak due to legal concerns.

Tipped employees could be paid less than minimum wage

Restaurant workers may be interested to know that Minnesota is one of only seven states where tipped employees are paid full minimum wage. In 19 other states, employers are allowed to pay a bartender or server as little as $2.13 per hour before gratuity. If the server's tips don't boost their pay up to the state minimum wage, then the employee is given a 'tip credit" to make up the difference.

Right now, tipped workers in the Twin Cities metropolitan area earn an average of $22 per hour from a combination of regular wages and gratuity. If the Minnesota Restaurant Association is successful in its campaign for a 'tipped employee tier", that average won't change with a higher state minimum wage. The tier would put a limit on tipped employee's wages that would be added to the state's wage laws. Rather than the $9.50 an hour minimum wage all employees are expected to receive by 2016, tipped employees would earn $8.

Options to void noncompete clauses in Minnesota

A noncompete clause is an agreement between an employer and an employee that limits where an employee can work if he or she leaves the company. Such a clause could bar an employee from working in a certain field, for a certain company or for any company in a given region. In addition, it may also specify how long the employee must wait before accepting a new job.

While such clauses have become more popular with employers, employees may be able to have a noncompete clause invalidated in court. If a judge decides that the clause is too broad, it could be struck down or modified. In many cases, simply taking a former employer to court could be enough to get the employer to negotiate more favorable terms for someone who is looking to move on in his or her career.

Employment law jurisdiction on Native American lands

Minnesota residents who work for an employer on an Indian reservation may be interested in an article discussing whether federal and state employment law protections apply to them. The answer is not simple, and greatly depends on the location of the reservation and the particular law in question.

Because Native American reservations are sovereign nations, they are more akin to a foreign country than a part of a U.S. state. Generally, this means that employment laws do not apply to tribal governments and businesses. There are some laws, such as Title VII's anti-discrimination law, that were written specifically to exempt Native American tribes. The WARN Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act do not apply to tribal governments either.

37 individuals claim retaliation in VA cases

Veterans in Minnesota and across the country may not have been receiving the assistance to which they are entitled, according to many published news reports. However, now some individuals who have exposed the VA for mismanaging the organization and abusing patients are making claims that they have become the victims of retaliation.

The United States Office of Special Counsel has received 37 complaints regarding such retaliation. The OSC is an independent investigative agency that looks into complaints and the treatment of federal employees. One VA employee that had a spotless record over the last 20 years was suspended from work after making reports that patients had been restrained in an inappropriate manner. Another employee reported being demoted after disclosing information about the mishandling of patient funds. The OSC is still investigating this claim. Another complaint stated that an employee was suspended for seven days after telling the inspector general's office about scheduling and coding procedures that were not proper. Altogether, the complaints regard facilities that are located in 19 states.

Lactation litigation against Nationwide

The U.S Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, that covers several states including Minnesota, recently issued a ruling that may affect many Americans in the workplace. A woman claiming she was constructively discharged sued Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company for pregnancy and sex discrimination. Nationwide contented she was under the same expectations as any other employee and that there were policies in place to accommodate her throughout the ordeal.

The appellate court sided with Nationwide because there were procedures in place to give management an opportunity rectify the situation. By walking off the job, she didn't give them adequate time to reasonably accommodate her needs. This is the key element of constructive discharge. The employer has to create a situation so unreasonable that the employee has no other recourse but to vacate the position of employment. Her failure to report the problem was the major point of contention.

Snoop Dogg's former bodyguards seek compensation

Minnesota music fans may be interested in a recent article discussing the details of a recent lawsuit filed against a popular rapper. According to a report, three of Snoop Dogg's hired bodyguards have filed suit against their former employer. The suit cites wrongful termination, unpaid overtime and bad working conditions as grounds for the action, and the plaintiffs are seeking lost wages, legal fees, damages and penalties.

The three were responsible for overseeing the rappers movements from place to place and interactions with the public. They were also required to run small errands such as grocery shopping. The complaint says that the plaintiffs were required to work unusually long hours and were only able to get three hours of sleep on average while the musician was on tour. They claim that they were not given breaks or a 30-minute meal period during their shifts. The filing says that the guards were paid overtime, but the higher rate did not begin until after they had worked 12 hours, and while on tour, they were paid a flat rate of $300 per day.

Alleging discrimination getting harder

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employees who were demoted or fired might have been able to sue for retaliatory practices by proving that the employer had a mixed motive for the action. Some workers, even in Minnesota, might have been abusing the system by filing a complaint alleging harassment if they suspected that they would be facing disciplinary measures later. In one hypothetical example, an employee who has a history of tardiness could complain of sexual harassment in preparation. If the employee is later fired for tardiness, the record of the complaint could show that retaliation was a factor in the firing, allowing for a lawsuit.

Another issue that has led to lawsuits over the years is harassment from supervisors. Title VII provides that employers be strictly liable for the actions of their supervisors. However, the term "supervisor" was not clearly defined in the Act. In one court case, a woman alleged that because one person had control of her everyday work, that individual was her supervisor, which would make the employer liable for the racial discrimination.

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