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The Modern Workplace

The Modern Workplace

  • Posts by Caitlin R. Gehlen

    Caitlin Gehlen focuses her practice on higher education and employment law. Caitlin advises and trains colleges and universities on a variety of legal issues including Title IX, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act ...

The current 2023 Minnesota legislative session has been a whirlwind of activity and may prove to be the most consequential year in recent history for many employers doing business in the state. Below is a summary of proposed new laws and one new law that has already passed – the Crown Act - that employers should pay attention to, as, if passed, they will directly impact compliance obligations and current operating procedures.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

The Minnesota House of Representatives recently approved HF2, a bill that would provide eligible employees with up to 18 weeks of ...

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Posted in COVID-19

On March 1, 2022, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) updated its guidance on how best to approach employee accommodation requests for those opposed to employer COVID-19 vaccine requirements because of their religious beliefs. 

As a quick refresher, the EEOC enforces Title VII which prohibits employment discrimination based on religion.  Employers are required to reasonably accommodate applicants and employees who have sincerely held religious beliefs to enable them to perform the essential functions of their jobs and where their beliefs may conflict ...

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On June 10, 2021, OSHA released a long-awaited new Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”), which establishes new mandatory workplace safety requirements for employers providing healthcare services or healthcare support services. The ETS aims to protect employees from exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace by requiring the following:

  • a COVID-19 plan based on an assessment of COVID-19 hazards;
  • patient screening;
  • transmission-based precautions;
  • continued personal protective equipment (PPE) usage;
  • social distancing while indoors;
  • proper cleaning and disinfecting ...
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As we predicted in a blog post earlier this year, the Biden administration has placed a 60-day hold on the U.S. Department of Labors (DOL) final rule on determining when a worker is an employee or independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which was expected to take effect March 8, 2021. The Biden Administration issued a memorandum to various executive agencies, including the DOL, asking that they: (1) not propose or issue any rules until a department or agency head appointed or designated by the Biden Administration reviews and approves the rule; (2) withdraw any ...
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Posted in Discrimination
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the EEOC) announced yesterday that, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, it would suspend the anticipated opening of its 2019 EEO-1 Component 1 data collection and the 2020 EEO-3 and EEO-5 data collections. The EEOCs EEO-1 Component 1 data collection process requires an employer to report the number of employees working for a covered business and sort those employees by job category, race, ethnicity, and gender. In turn, the EEOCs EEO-3 data collection process requires race, ethnicity, and gender reporting by local unions and the EEO-5 data ...
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Posted in Discrimination
After a surge of unorthodox flight companions ranging from pigs, to squirrels, and even a peacock the U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced a proposed rule that would allow only specially trained emotional support dogs to qualify as service animals and to fly, free of charge, on domestic flights. This proposed rule change comes after multiple complaints from flight attendants, fellow passengers, and advocacy groups about the rise in untrained animals aboard domestic flights and the impact on others on flights. Such complaints have included allergies, safety ...
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A note of caution to Minnesota-based employers federal enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) should not be your only concern when drafting employee compensation plans; the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry is actively auditing employers in search of those avoiding their overtime requirements under the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act (MFLSA). This past Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld a million dollar compliance order issued by the Department against an employer utilizing split-day compensation plans. The court heldthat an employer must ...
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Posted in Wage & Hour

On the heels of the new Minnesota state wage theft law, which went into effect on July 1st, the Minneapolis City Council has proposed a city wage theft ordinance. The proposed Minneapolis ordinance mirrors the new state law in many respects, but includes some additional requirements. The Citys ordinance would require employers to put all pay agreements in writing and provide regular written or electronic earnings statements to workers. The proposal also includes a streamlined resolution process for wage disputes that does not require an employee to have an attorney and creates a ...
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In December of 2018, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals addressed the interaction between a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and a work attendance policy holding that unauthorized absences under an attendance policy can be used to terminate an employee for whom accommodations are being made under the ADA. In Lipp v. Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation, the 8th Circuit affirmed dismissal of an employees lawsuit alleging her employer discriminated against her when it failed to accommodate her need for intermittent absences under the ADA and ...
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The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has been busy. It recently issuedsix new opinion letters on various compliance issues. As described below, four of the letters involve the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and two of the letters involve the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). While DOL opinion letters are issued in response to a particular employers submission of a question to the DOL, employers that rely on a DOL opinion letter in setting their practices have a legal safe harbor defense if faced with, as applicable, a FLSA or FMLA legal challenge. That being said, courts ...
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Although the Trump administration has signaled its intention to shift away from the prior administrations efforts to expand LGBTQ+ equity rights in the workplace, a federal appellate court recently held that discrimination based on an individuals status as transgender or gender-transitioning is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc., the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that discrimination based on an employees status as transgender or gender-transitioning is prohibited sex discrimination under Title VII. In ...
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Last week, in Boswell v. Panera Bread Co., the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Panera Bread illegally imposed caps on amounts paid to managers under its bonus program. In order to recruit and retain managers, Panera had created a program under which managers were eligible to receive a one-time bonus to be paid five years after the managers signed at-will employment agreements containing the bonus program. In order to receive the bonus, the manager had to be employed as a manager at the time of payment.

However, after a downturn in profits, Panera decided to place a $100,000 cap on ...
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As previously reported, a Hennepin County district court judge ruled earlier this fall in a class action case against Surly Brewingthat an employee tip-pooling agreement made with employer coercion or participation violates Minnesota's wage and hour law. Now, the Minnesota Supreme Court has found that Minnesota's wage and hour law expressly permits a private cause of action for an employee who is discharged for refusing to share gratuities.
The Minnesota Supreme Courts ruling was issued this week in Burt v. Rackner, Inc. d/b/a/ Bunnys Bar & Grill. The plaintiff, Todd Burt, alleged ...
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We've previously posted on the growing social and legal movement for transgender equity. In recent developments, a Minnesota-based federal court ruled that Lisa Scott, a transgender woman, could proceed to trial on a claim that her rejection as a plasma donor was unlawful transgender discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). The MHRA prohibits employment discrimination based on gender identity, but also contains provisions that prohibit business discrimination based on gender identity. Scotts lawsuit is based on the business discrimination provisions of ...
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Three former University of Minnesota-Duluth coaches filed suit against the University Board of Regents on Monday in federal court. Former women's hockey coach Shannon Miller, former softball coach Jen Banford, and former women's basketball coach Annette Wiles allege that University administrators discriminated against them based on their gender and sexual orientation and failed to properly investigate reports of harassment and discrimination. The lawsuit also claims disparities between the men's and women's athletic programs at the University.
This lawsuit comes at a ...
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