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Minnesota is an At-Will Employment State, What Does That Mean?

When you hear that Minnesota is an “at-will” employment state, you may wonder what that means for you as an employee. It simply means you can quit your job for any reason at any time, you do not have to give notice nor a reason to your employer for leaving your position.

However, it also means an employer can terminate your employment for any reason at any time as long as the reason for termination is not illegal. For example, it is illegal for an employer to terminate employment based on an employee’s race, age, sex, sexual orientation, or religion, to name a few protected classes and statuses. Similarly, it is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee because the employee reported something unlawful, like discrimination or corporate wrongdoing.

Being an “at-will” employment state makes it easy for an employee and their employer to part ways if the position is not working for one or both of the parties. But, if you feel you have been wrongfully terminated based on discrimination, contact us at Kitzer Rochel. Our experienced employment law attorneys would be happy to discuss your case and help you understand your legal rights and options.

Can My Employer Fire Me if I Fail a Drug Test?

Minnesota’s Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (DATWA) governs drug testing for employees. Employers may not require drug or alcohol testing unless such testing is completed under a written drug and alcohol testing policy that contains certain information required by law.[1] The testing must also be completed only by a qualified laboratory.[2]

If your employer requires you to take an initial drug test and you test positive, DATWA prohibits your employer from firing you without first providing you with the opportunity to participate in counseling or rehabilitation.[3] Your employer is also required to provide you with written documentation of your test results.[4]

If your employer has not followed these legal requirements, or you have questions about drug testing at work, contact us. Our experienced employment law attorneys would be happy to discuss your case and help you understand your legal rights and options.

 

[1] Minn. Stat. § 181.951, subd. 1.

[2] Minn. Stat. § 181.953, subd. 1.

[3] Minn. Stat. § 181.953, subd. 10(b)(1); Hanson v. City of Hawley, No. A05-1940, WL 1148125, at *1 (Minn. Ct. App. May 2, 2006).

[4] Minn. Stat. § 181.953, subd. 7.

Can I Request My Personnel Record from My Employer?

Under Minnesota law, if an employee makes a written request to their employer, the employer must provide the employee with the opportunity to review their personnel record.[1] However, the employer is not required to provide an opportunity for the employee to review their personnel record if the employee has reviewed their file within the previous six months.[2] After an employee no longer works for the employer, the employee may review their personnel record once per year for as long as the record is kept.[3]

For current employees, if an employee makes a written request, the employer must allow the employee to view the file within seven days for records kept in Minnesota, or fourteen days for records kept outside of Minnesota.[4] For current employees, the personnel record (or an accurate copy) must be made available to the employee during the employer’s normal operating hours.[5] The employer is allowed to be present (or have a representative present) during review of the personnel file.[6] After review, the employee can make a written request for a copy of the record, and the employer is required to provide a copy.[7]

For former employees, the employer must provide a copy once the former employee makes a written request, but need not allow review of the personnel file itself.[8] The employer is not permitted to charge a copy fee for the copy of the personnel file.[9] The employer must provide a copy of the file to the employee within seven days (for files kept in Minnesota) or fourteen days (for files kept outside the state).

If you have questions about this process, contact us. Our experienced employment law attorneys would be happy to discuss the process and help you determine your next steps.

[1] Minn. Stat. § 181.961, subd. 1.

[2] Minn. Stat. § 181.961, subd. 1.

[3] Minn. Stat. § 181.961, subd. 1.

[4] Minn. Stat. § 181.961, subd. 2(a).

[5] Minn. Stat. § 181.961, subd. 2(b).

[6] Minn. Stat. § 181.961, subd. 2(b).

[7] Minn. Stat. § 181.961, subd. 2(b).

[8] Minn. Stat. § 181.961, subd. 2(c).

[9] Minn. Stat. § 181.961, subd. 2(d).

[10] Minn. Stat. § 181.961, subd. 3.

Minnesota Supreme Court extends statute of limitations for some claims under Minnesota Human Rights Act

On April 12, 2017, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued an opinion in Peterson v. City of Minneapolis, 2017 Minn. LEXIS 195 (Apr. 12, 2017), that may extend the statute of limitations for some employment claims brought under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Scott Peterson was a Minneapolis Police Officer for several years. In 2011, he was transferred to a new police unit, and he complained that the transfer was because of age discrimination. Rather than file a charge of discrimination, Officer Peterson filed a complaint through the City’s internal investigative wing. Over a year later, the City concluded that Officer Peterson had not been discriminated against.

Officer Peterson then sued the City. The City responded by arguing that it was too late to sue—there is a one-year statute of limitations for claims under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, and Peterson was more than a year after his transfer. But, as the Minnesota Supreme Court recognized, that one-year statute of limitations is “tolled” or suspended during the time that the parties are engaged in their own dispute resolution process. So for Officer Peterson, the time that the City was investigating his discrimination claim did not count against his statute of limitations. That meant that even though Officer Peterson sued more  than a year after his transfer, his claim was still timely.

Before seeking a lawyer, many employees will attempt to work out their employment issues directly with their employers. With the Peterson case, it now seems this time may not count toward the statute of limitations for claims under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. However, because many employment claims have very short statutes of limitations, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible if you have an employment concern or a workplace dispute.

Rochel Moderates Panel of Federal Law Clerks

Brian Rochel moderated a panel of federal law clerks discussing practice pointers for employment and labor attorneys. The panel, entitled “Federal Law Clerks’ Tips on Trial and Dispositive Motions,” featured Katherine Bruce, law clerk to the Honorable Donovan W. Frank, Mark Betinsky, law clerk to the Honorable Richard J. Kyle, and Elizabeth Welter, law clerk to the Honorable Patrick J. Schiltz. The panel was part of the Federal Bar Association Labor & Employment Section‘s fall seminar. For more information on the seminar, including the federal law clerk panel, click here.