Changes To The Contract
Most employment relationships are “at-will,” and in these cases employers are free to prospectively alter the terms and conditions of the employment relationship. When the relationship is governed by a contract, the employee’s consent is required in order to alter the terms unless the contract expressly reserved discretion to the employer.
Change In Ownership Of The Business
There are no specific rules which apply or specific steps which need to be followed in the event of a change of ownership in a business. Unless the employee has an employment contract which states otherwise, employment in Minnesota is at-will, and thus employees are not allowed to refuse changes in ownership of the business. If only the assets of a business are sold, however, as opposed to its stock, employees do not necessarily retain their employment. In those situations, the decision of whether to continue the employment relationships lies entirely with the new owner.
Social Security Contributions
Federal law provides for compulsory social security contributions by both employer and employee.
Accidents At Work
Minnesota’s workers’ compensation law may apply if the employee is injured while at work. Other laws may also apply to the employer’s treatment of an employee as a result of the injury, including disability laws and access to leave. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee for seeking workers’ compensation benefits.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
Minnesota law strictly regulates applicant and employee drug or alcohol testing. Employers must have a specific form of written policy to conduct testing and must comply with certain testing consent procedures. In addition, employers may only conduct tests in one of the following five instances: (1) pre-employment testing of all job applicants for a given position after a conditional offer of employment has been made; (2) reasonable suspicion testing; (3) treatment program testing; (4) routine physical examination testing; and (5) random drug testing of “safety sensitive” positions. Employers are limited as to the employment actions that may be taken based on a first-time positive test result. Employers may discipline employees for a first positive test result, but they must offer the employee the opportunity for treatment in lieu of termination.
Medical marijuana is legal in Minnesota. An employer must allow an applicant or employee who has a positive drug test to provide proof of their enrollment in the state medical marijuana registry. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against an applicant or employee who is enrolled in the state registry for testing positive for medical cannabis, unless the individual used, possessed, or was impaired by medical cannabis while at work.
Minnesota law also protects the lawful use of lawful consumable products. such as alcohol and tobacco off the employer premises and during nonworking hours. An employer may not take disciplinary action for such lawful behaviour. As such, it is typically inappropriate to conduct alcohol testing on job applicants in Minnesota.
Discipline And Grievance
Unless a collective bargaining agreement or a specific contract provision applies, state and federal law do not govern discipline or grievance procedures.
The Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) prohibits discrimination in employment by reason of race, colour, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, membership or activity in a local commission disability, sexual orientation (including gender identity), age or familial status .Retaliation against an employee who reports a violation of the MHRA, testifies, assists, or participates in any investigation or proceeding under the MHRA, or associates with a person or group of persons in a protected class also is prohibited.
The prohibition against discrimination based on sex includes discrimination due to pregnancy, childbirth, and disabilities related to pregnancy or childbirth. For purposes of discrimination based on sex, the term “discriminate” includes sexual harassment. “Sexual harassment” includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, sexually motivated physical contact, or other verbal or physical conduct or communication based on one’s sex when either (1) submission to such conduct is made a term or condition of employment, or (2) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s employment, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
The MHRA also establishes special requirements to obtain a release of any discrimination or retaliation claim under the MHRA. For such a release to be effective, an employee asked to release any MHRA claim must be given a fifteen -day period after signing the release agreement to revoke the release of MHRA claims unless the release is of a MHRA claim that was formally asserted in a state administrative or court action.
Compulsory Training Obligations
Employers must provide annual training regarding hazardous substances or harmful physical agents to employees who may routinely be exposed to such materials.
Except in limited circumstances, employers may not make deductions from wages for any claimed indebtedness.
Payments For Maternity And Disability Leave
For employers with 21 or more employees at one site, the Minnesota Parenting Leave Act provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child if the employee has worked at least half-time for 12 consecutive months for the employer before the leave is to begin. After returning from leave, the returning employee generally must be reinstated to the same position or to a similar position with comparable duties.
There are no Minnesota statutes that directly provide for disability leave. However, the Minnesota Human Rights Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees with known disabilities.
Most employers must participate in insurance plans for work-related injuries and for unemployment. Workers’ compensation is administered by the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry. The Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Program is administered by the Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development.
Absence For Military Or Public Service Duties
Federal law provides leave for certain military service members, family members and caretakers. In addition, Minnesota provides paid leave for certain military activities, jury duty and court appearances, voting, and bone marrow and organ donation.
An employee elected to public office must be given leave to attend required meetings, but this time may be either paid or unpaid.
Employees may take up to 16 hours of unpaid leave within a 12-month period to attend school conferences or activities of the employee’s child.
Works Councils or Trade Unions
Minnesota has statutes that govern labor relations in the public and private sectors. As to the private sector, generally the state statutes will have effect only where the federal labor law, the National Labor Relations Act, does not reach. Such areas of state law coverage in the private sector in Minnesota are very limited as the federal law reaches the vast majority of private employers. The public sector is a different matter, because generally the federal labor law does not cover public employers. The state therefore regulates that sector significantly.
Employees’ Right To Strike
While private employees’ right to strike exists in virtually every instance, public employees’ right to strike is more limited. Those falling under the statutory definition of “essential employees” may not strike. Other public employees may strike only in certain circumstances. Where employees do not have a right to strike, they have a right to arbitration of bargaining and related matters, and other “substitute” procedural rights. The state does place some restrictions, which are generally not pre-empted by the federal labor law, on the conduct of strikes and related job actions whether they occur in the private or public sector.
Employees On Strike
Under federal law the employer can permanently replace striking private sector employees under certain circumscribed conditions. More generally, an employer under the federal law has an absolute right to hire and employ temporary replacements for striking workers. Workers cannot, however, be fired because they have participated in a strike or otherwise engaged in protected concerted activity.
Under Minnesota’s public sector labor law, the right to replace striking workers is significantly more restricted than under the federal law applicable to the private sector.
Employers’ Responsibility For Actions Of Their Employees
Employers may be liable to third parties for injuries inflicted by their employees under two broad theories. Employers may be vicariously liable for acts committed by their employees within the scope of their employment duties.
In addition, employers may be directly liable for their own negligence in failing to ascertain an employee’s propensity to inflict injury.