Examining
practical HR issues business owners
and managers encounter every day

A Letter of the Laws
September 2007

Other Exciting Laws

You’re probably all aware that the federal minimum wage increased in July of 2007. Since the federal minimum wage is currently less than Minnesota’s minimum wage, we are always expected to adhere to the more generous rule for our practices. So MN’s standards rule.

However, some of you may have forgotten that you’re still required to change your Federal Employment Law poster. So, let this be your reminder.

The Department of Labor has free posters on their website at: DOL if you are so inclined to use individual posters.

However, I recently learned of a very inexpensive web site for consolidated posters for $29.95 for both state and federal posters! Check out LaborLawCenter.com if you need to update your posters.

You probably also want to become familiar with:

  • The October 1st MN state-wide no smoking ban
  • MN’s new Social Security Number Shield Law which requires that employers take steps to protect disclosure of employee social security numbers which takes effective July 1, 2008.

How Arlene
Can Help

Employee Handbooks

I’m hesitant to count how many scores of handbooks I’ve written or audited.

So, if you don’t have an employee handbook, call me and we can design the handbook that works best for your business. We meet and review your needs – and presto! – I return with the handbook for you to audit and implement.

My employee handbooks are always given to you as a Word document, so you can make any on-going changes as you see fit.

Many of my clients have me come to their workplace and introduce the employee handbook to their staff. That allows me to discuss what policies are required by law, what are standard for other organizations and what is generously offered by yours.

If you already have an employee handbook and it’s been a while since you’ve reviewed or updated it, I also do handbook audits and rewrites.

I can present you with a line-by-line, policy-by policy review of your current handbook with suggestions on omissions, enhancements and simplifications. Or some of my clients have me edit while I audit, then we discuss any major policy issues and the best ways to revise the employee handbook.

Let me know if you need some assistance to get that employee handbook off your desk and onto mine!

Quick Links…


If you’re not
having fun
with your
human resources,
call Arlene today
at 952-996-0975

Legal Update

I try to stay away from the drier topics of HR in the HRxaminer. Unfortunately, I can’t ignore the Minnesota legislation that is approaching us. Since I haven’t seen that much news about it, I figured I’d share it in case you haven’t heard much about it either.

My first legal disclaimer is that I’m not an attorney, which you know. So, I’ll provide you some practical information and tips, but if you need in-depth legal advice about anything I write here, feel free to call your employment law attorney. If you don’t have one, I can refer you to several quality individuals.

Beginning January 1, 2008, Minnesota employers with 20+ employees must provide written notice to new hires of their right to review their personnel records in accordance with the Minnesota Personnel Record Review and Access Act (Minn. Stat. § 181.960).

While the rules surrounding access to the files have not changed, we are now required to provide the rules in writing to new employees. My recommendation is that employers update their employee handbook with a new Personnel File policy that includes the following:

  • The active employee’s right to review their personnel file once every 6 months by submitting a written request. A terminated employee may only review their file once per year.
  • The personnel record has to be presented no later than 7 working days after the written request for in-state employees and 14 days if the personnel file is in a different state than the employee.
  • The employee’s right to receive a copy of the personnel file records at no cost to the employee.
  • The employee’s right to dispute the information in the file, including writing a response up to 5 pages in length to be placed in the personnel file.
  • The employee’s right not to be retaliated against for accessing their personnel files.
  • The remedies to the employee if the employer violates these rights.

Copyright (c) 2007 Arlene Vernon, HRx, Inc.

Implementing the New MN Law

So, if you’ve been putting off updating your employee handbook, now may be the time to review it and make sure you have all the proper personnel file language in your handbook. Let me know if I can help you with your updates.

Here’s a link to the original statue so you can see what items the State considers as included in the Personnel File.

http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/bin/getpub.php?type=s&num=181.960&year=2006

A vital tip regarding employees reviewing their personnel files: Never leave the employee alone with their file. If an employee wishes to review their file, whoever is responsible for human resources should remain in the room with the employee during the entire file review. If employees want a copy of an item, write down what they want, and then tell them you will copy it at a later time and give it to them. The objective is to not jeopardize the quality of the files by allowing original documentation to mysteriously disappear following the review.

The same applies to managers who want to review employee files. My recommendation is that you ask them what they’d like a copy of, then provide it to them. It’s too easy for a document to be lost or misplaced inadvertently as the personnel file travels around the organization. And certain documents are too important to risk losing.

One client told me the tale of their HR person. She was responsible for all the company’s personnel files, including her own. When it came time to terminate her for performance issues, interestingly, her file could not be found.

So, remember: whoever is in charge of your personnel files should not manage their own personnel file.

Another note: when you conduct employee orientation, don’t just hand the employee their handbook and think that you’ve complied with the law. My “best practices” recommendation is that you walk through the entire employee handbook with a new employee and communicate in summary each policy.

In my opinion, the most important policy to communicate now is the personnel file policy. #2 in importance is my perennial favorite, the harassment policy. If you don’t do harassment training, you should at minimum review this policy in detail with the employee. Then you and every employee can state that they were (a) presented your policy and (b) understand the expectations regarding appropriate workplace behavior and reporting any incidents. If you don’t go through your entire handbook in your orientation, then select the key policies that need to be communicated. Of course, the only policies the new employee is interested in are the time off policies.

Copyright (c) 2006 Arlene Vernon, HRx, Inc.

About Arlene Vernon

Arlene Vernon, PHR, partners with small businesses as their Human Resource Xpert to create their HR systems and solve their HR problems.

If you have gaps in your HR operation, have an employee problem to solve, or want to enhance your managers’ skills, call Arlene today. Learn
how HRx can save you time and help you avoid costly HR mistakes. HRx, Inc., 574 Prairie Center Drive #135/285, Eden Prairie, MN 55344, 952-996-0975,
www.HRxcellence.com.

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