Minnesota, “The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes,” has seen its population soar past five million this decade. Although Minnesota remains relatively ethnically homogenous (as compared with neighboring states like Illinois and Michigan), its population has nevertheless diversified significantly. In particular, an influx of Asian and Latino immigrants to the Minneapolis / St. Paul metro area has enriched and changed the character of the state. According to a 2005 budget estimate, Minnesota produces around $230 billion a year in domestic product. While the state at one time relied almost solely on agriculture and mining to sustain its economy; today, Minnesotans do much more than farm and drill. Forestry, IT, tourism, and high tech industries all play important roles in MN’s economy.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) oversees and enforces labor law. The DLI provides education, resources for employers and employees, training, and licensing and certification. The DLI also regulates worker’s comp, occupational safety and health, inspections, apprenticeship programs, and dispute resolution services. The DLI is over 120 years old. It was founded originally as a subdivision of the Labor Statistics Bureau. In 1967, however, the state legislature broadened and deepened the DLI’s powers and responsibilities. Today, the department’s mandate includes preventing workplace accidents, enforcing labor standards, and taking action against employment law violations, such as:

  1. Discrimination. Individuals seeking employment or currently employed at any Minnesota organization have a right not to experience adverse decisions or unequal treatment due to their race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or other protected statuses.
  2. Sexual harassment. A work environment is no place to request sexual demands or favors, engage in appropriate or obscene joking or conversations, or make repeated unwanted sexual advances towards coworkers or subordinates. When this happens, the employer must take corrective measures against the offending individuals.
  3. Wage violations. Employees should receive fair compensation for hours they have worked. Employers may not enact schemes, such as time card tampering, misclassifying workers, or asking employees to take work home with them without paying for the work.

The state also participates in significant trade with its “neighbor to the north,” Canada. Often, labor law issues arise with respect to how to treat guest workers from Canada. For instance: do Minnesota’s antidiscrimination statutes take precedence over federal statutes or Canadian statutes in areas of mixed jurisdiction?

Navigating this complex environment can be tough for employers and workers alike. It may be difficult to determine when an organization is following the law and when questionable practices need to be addressed. Fortunately, many individuals and agencies exist to advocate on behalf of workers and groups of workers seeking compensation from their employers.

Has your Minnesota employer engaged in conduct that you believe constituted wage or hour violation, retaliation, ADA or FMLA noncompliance, harassment, or discrimination? If so, a local lawyer specializing in employment law can provide a free consultation to discuss how to proceed with legal action.

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