H.F. 2300 would add an additional protected class to the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The Minnesota Human Rights Act already prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, disability, sexual orientation and age. The additional protected class would consist of “familial status, status as a family caregiver.”Read More
H.F. 2274 would prohibit employers from discharging or retaliating against employees for inquiring about, disclosing, or discussing the employee’s wages or the wages of another employee. Although not currently protected under state law, employees who engage in such discussions are probably already protected against retaliation under the National Labor Relations Act. Communications among employees about their terms and conditions of employment, including wages, are generally protected as concerted activity under federal labor law.Read More
H.F. 2371 would dramatically expand the rights and protections afforded employees under state law who take pregnancy leave. The bill would change from 6 weeks to 12 weeks the amount of time available for leave available under state law for pregnancy, birth or adoption of a child. However, federal law already provides 12 weeks of leave for employers covered by the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (i.e. employers with at least 50 employees). The state statute would expand the right to a full 12 weeks of leave to employees of smaller employers.Read More
As currently proposed, H.F. 2373 would expand the scope of Minnesota’s pay equity law. State law currently only requires public entities (counties, cities, etc.) to eliminate sex-based wage inequities in compensation and provide compliance reports to the state. The bill would dramatically expand the number of employers who have to undertake the elimination of sex-based wage inequities and seek certification from the State of Minnesota.Read More
H.F. 2259, introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives, would provide additional protections for employees in the state who are nursing mothers. The bill proposes amendments to existing law (Section 181.939 of the Minnesota Statutes), which currently requires all employers, no matter how small, to provide “reasonable unpaid break time each day to an employee who needs to express breast milk for her infant child.”Read More
H.F. 2461 and S.F. 2105 would create a mandatory system for the accrual of paid “sick and safe time” (leave) for Minnesota employers. Currently, employers are not required by any state or federal law to provide for sick leave. Under the bill, covered employees would accrue a minimum of one hour of earned “sick and safe time” for every 30 hours worked.Read More
United States Supreme Court: Time Spent Donning and Doffing Protective Gear Does Not Always Require Compensation
Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp., No. 12-417 (U.S. 2014)Read More
The Fair Labor Standards Act allows employers and unions to negotiate whether employees are compensated for time spent changing clothes before and after shifts. At issue in this case was whether “clothing” can include also personal protective gear such as safety glasses, respirators, and ear plugs that are not traditionally considered clothing. The Supreme Court held that clothing does include personal protective equipment, and that employers and unions can fairly agree to exclude time “donning and doffing” these items from compensable time.
The Winds of Change: Minnesota Employers Must Grant Same Benefits To Same-Sex And Opposite-Sex Spouses of Employees
The legal tide has greatly changed in the last year with respect to employers’ treatment of the same-sex spouses of employees in Minnesota. No longer can benefits, granted to opposite-sex spouses of employees, be denied to same-sex spousesRead More
With franchise registration renewals just around the corner for many franchisors, the Larkin Hoffman Franchise & Distribution Practice Group is gearing up to prepare updated franchise disclosure documents (“FDDs”) for franchisors nationwide. As you start preparing for your franchise renewals, here are our top ten franchise renewal tips for 2014:Read More
Courts should be more likely to uphold forum selection clauses following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Forum selection clauses are used in almost all agreements, including franchise agreements, to provide that any litigation between the parties to the agreement be brought and adjudicated in only certain listed state or federal courts. Franchisors rely on forum selection clauses to funnel litigation to only selected courts (usually in their home state) rather than having to “put out fires” across the country. Franchisors should revisit their forum selection and choice of law clauses to ensure they are valid and provide for the most favorable venue and governing law for the franchisor because courts are now more likely to uphold such clauses as written.Read More
On November 7, 2013, the United States Senate passed bill S.815, officially titled the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), by a vote of 64 to 32. If passed, ENDA would make it unlawful for employers with 15 or more employees to refuse to hire, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against employees or job applications because of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. ENDA also contains a provision which would prohibit discrimination based upon an employee’s association with an individual protected on account of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.Read More
Centra Homes, LLC v. City of Norwood Young America: Disputes Over Building Permit Fees Not Ripe for Judicial ReviewIn July, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that disputes regarding building permit fees are not ripe for judicial review prior to exhausting the administrative remedy of appealing the fees to the Department of Labor and Industry (“DLI”), thereby eliminating district court jurisdiction over these disputes.
Centra requested that the City reduce its permit fees, alleging that the fees violated state law because they were not related to actual costs. When the City refused to do so, Centra requested that the City provide its administrative procedures for Centra to pursue prior to bringing an action against the City. The City’s attorney, with consultation from the Minnesota League of Cities, informed Centra that the City would “accept payment in escrow for the building permit fees, based on Minn. Stat. § 462.353.” The City and Centra then entered into an agreement which allowed the fees to be paid into es Read More
In this edition of the Tax Court Case Update we have six cases of interest. The Supreme Court reminds us that a Tax Court decision without thorough explanation will be upheld as long as it does not provide a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. The Tax Court decided two shopping mall cases involving the percentage-of-sales method of valuation and in doing so provides a road map for how the percentage-of-sales method should be used. In a third shopping mall case the Tax Court holds that properties benefiting from cross parking easements should be valued as if they have sufficient parking on their own site. Finally, there are two Tax Court cases providing some additional insight into a Green Acres challenge and whether copies of leases must be disclosed.Read MoreOn October 31, 2013 the IRS modified the “use it or lose it” rule to allow carryover, limited to $500, of unused medical FSA funds into the next plan year. This carryover can not be used if the plan has a “grace period” that gives participants up to 2-1/2 months to spend the unused funds after the close of the plan year. Also, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act implemented a $2,500 cap on employer sponsored medical FSA under §125 of the Internal Revenue Code effective in 2013. All employers are required to amend their medical FSA plans from an unlimited contribution to a maximum of $2,500 contribution per plan year by the end of the 2013 plan year.
Employers offering FSA plans will need to decide whether to modify their FSA plans to offer employees the carryover option or instead maintain their existing 2-1/2 month grace period and amend their plans, if necessary, prior to the end of the plan year. Read More
Chuck Modell coauthored the article, Reducing Your Brand's Exposure to Liability, in the November 2013 issue of Franchising World.Read MoreTwo recent cases provide hope for employers facing class actions lawsuits by the EEOC.
In EEOC v. CRST Van Expedited, Inc., the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa awarded the employer $4.7 million in attorneys fees, finding that the EEOC brought claims that were “frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation.” The EEOC initially brought the claims for harassment on behalf of one plaintiff “and a class of  similarly situated female employees.” However, after the employer won a summary judgment motion with the court finding that the employer had not engaged in a “pattern or practice” of harassment, the EEOC was forced to attempt to prove individual claims of sexual harassment. The EEOC was not successful, and after a series of summary judgment motions, all of the individual claims were dismissed. The EEOC appealed, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals held that two of the individual claim Read More
In an opinion which sharply criticized the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s attempted use of statistics to support its discrimination claims based on criminal background and credit checks, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland granted summary judgment to Freeman, Inc. on the EEOC’s race and sex discrimination claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC v. Freeman, D. Md., No: 8:09-cv-02573, 8/9/13. The EEOC has taken the position that employers’ use of credit and conviction records in making employment decisions can have the effect of discriminating against minorities, and such information should be considered only in limited circumstances.Read More
The Supreme Court previously held in Quality King Distributors v. L’anza Research Int’l, Inc. that the first sale doctrine covers the foreign sale of a work that was printed in the United States. The Supreme Court left unanswered whether a book that was both printed and sold abroad qualifies as a work “lawfully made under” the Copyright Act. In Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., the Supreme Court considered this question, and held that the first sale doctrine covers copyrighted works that are both printed and sold abroad.Read More
Supreme Court Defines “Supervisor” and Adds Protection to Employers from Title VII Hostile Work Environment Claims
On June 24, 2013, in a 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court defined “supervisor” as it pertains to vicarious liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In Vance v. Ball State University, No. 11-556, the Court held that to be considered a supervisor, an employee must have the authority to make tangible employment decisions, such as hiring and firing.Read More
U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Employers: Employees Must Prove Strict ‘But-For’ Causation to Establish A Title VII Retaliation Claim
On June 24, 2013, the United States Supreme Court decided, in University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, that employees pursuing Title VII retaliation claims must prove the traditional “but-for” causation, instead of the relaxed “motivating factor” standard applicable to Title VII discrimination claims.Read More
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