As any working professional can tell you, every employer is different. Some companies have a culture of consideration and care, where every policy is carefully balanced with both the law and employee convenience. Unfortunately, these gems are few and far between. All too often, you can wind up with an employer who sees you as little more than an HR identification number and a stack of expenses they don’t want to pay. When the company is put first before employees, this breeds an entire company culture of disrespect and employee rights violations. The fact of the matter is that in Minnesota, if you feel that your employee rights are being violated, they probably are.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you are being paranoid or complaining until you know the facts. Be aware of whether your employee rights are being violated. And, if so, make a plan of action to regain your rights as a dignified and fairly paid professional. To help everyone out there wondering if your employers are breaking the law, consider these ten common ways that abusive employers take advantage of their staff and violate Minnesota employee laws.
1) Heaping Duties Without Providing Paid Time for Completion
Are you required to put on a uniform, manage inventory, or clean a workspace as part of your duties? These are perfection normal work tasks in most situations and reasonable parts of a daily workload. Unless, of course, your employer isn’t giving you enough time to complete these tasks. If you are finding yourself expected to have the stock room organized and paperwork finished but your official hours are already packed with active assignments, your employer is trying to take advantage of you and avoid paying you for things that are somehow passively “your responsibility”.
2) Asking You to Work During Clocked-Out Breaks
It’s not uncommon for professionals to choose to do a little extra work over their lunch break. If you’re looking over paperwork or organizing your desk over lunch on your own, that is a choice you’re free to make to get ahead. However, employers are not allowed to ask you to do work during any time you are officially clocked out. This is your personal time in which you could, if you chose, leave the building to take care of personal needs or errands. Employers trying to make you work over lunch are trying to steal paid time from you.
3) Asking You to Clock Out During Mandated Rest Breaks
Another violation has to do with the clocking out itself. In Minnesota, any break shorter than 21 minutes (breaks between 0 and 20 minutes) are officially paid rest periods where you are still on-premise and on the clock. The state of Minnesota requires employers to provide at least one paid rest period per four hours of work and they are not allowed to ask you to clock out during this time. If you have been clocking out for rest periods, your employer has been shirking their legal duty to pay you for these 20-minute breaks.
5) Preventing You From Using “Use It or Lose It” Paid Vacation Days
There are many ways that employers can choose to offer Paid vacation in our state, including a “Use It or Lose It” policy that requires you to use earned vacation days before they expire. However, it is an abuse of your right to earned vacation for employers to then deny you vacation days during the “Use It” period. They will often do this with the specific goal of causing you to “Lose It” so they don’t have to pay for any time off, despite using paid vacation as an employment incentive.
6) Denying Payment for Unused Vacation Days at End of Employment
In the state of Minnesota, employers are not obligated to offer paid vacation days. However, they are required to provide full “earned pay” if you quit or are let go. Paid vacation time that you have earned and has not expired is officially earned pay that you have a right to when you depart. Even if your company does not traditionally pay out for unused vacation time, you have a right to be paid its value when you leave employment amicably.
7) Misclassification of Exempt vs Non-Exempt Status
The vast majority of employment laws apply to employees who are paid hourly wages, no matter how high or low those wages are. These are non-exempt employees, meaning most employment laws apply to them.
Exempt employees, on the other hand, are those who are paid an annual salary no matter how many hours they work. They are considered exempt from most employment laws that apply to wages and hours. However, to qualify as an exempt salaried employee, you must have significant management, executive, administrative, or outside sales responsibilities that should have you more deeply invested in the company.
If you have been misclassified as exempt when you are non-exempt, this puts employers in the position to at least temporarily justify denying you employee rights.
8) Offering Comp Time Instead of Overtime Pay
Employers have a certain amount of leeway in how and when they pay your for time worked over your usual hours and outside of overtime daily and weekly hour limitations. If work you have done qualifies for overtime pay, it must be paid at time and a half no matter how your employer chooses to compensate you. One violation is offering “Comp time” instead of overtime.
Comp time is an opportunity to take some paid time off, matched hour for hour, with the time you just worked. However, if the time was officially overtime, even the comp time must be paid at time and a half, not your normal wage.
9) Tip Stealing and Minimum Wage Violations
In industries where employees make most of their money off of tips, minimum wage becomes complicated. The state of Minnesota requires employers to ensure that their staff is making minimum wage even if tips are involved. Therefore, if your tips and hourly pay do not equal the state minimum, your employer is violating minimum wage. Likewise, if your employer is taking tips for themselves without a fair tip splitting program, they are also committing a violation and denying you your fair earnings for hard work.
10) Discrimination and Harassment
Finally, there are the issues of discrimination and harassment. While most employer violations have to do with payment, the environment of your company culture and workplace are part of your employee rights. You have the right to work in a non-hostile environment, to not be harassed by others, and not to face discrimination for your age, gender, family status, culture or ethnicity, disability status, among other factors. If you have been the subject of ridicule, selective assignments, undue punishment, or discriminatory decision making, your employer is at fault and could be legally liable for their abuse.
Is your employer violating your rights as an employee? If you know that they are or would like to consult with an expert to determine if your rights have been violated, please contact us today. We can help you get the respect and compensation you deserve from your employer.