Every state in the union functions under a basic system of “at will” employment, which means that both workers and employers are allowed to terminate their working relationship at any time and for any reason. If the law was as simple as just this, however, it would tilt too heavily in favor of employers. Most states therefore add certain exemptions to protect employees from wrongful dismissals, and Minnesota is among the states that have these exemptions.
Minnesota recognizes two of the three major worker protections seen in United States labor law; the “public policy” and “implied contract” exceptions. Minnesota does not incorporate the “good faith and fair dealing” clause, however, which requires employers to establish just cause whenever they release an employee.
The public policy exception allows for an employee to challenge their dismissal on the basis of it violating an established public policy of the state. In Minnesota, this exception is very narrow. The one area where the law is clear is in protection for whistleblowers who are terminated for refusing to participate in an illegal activity at work or for reporting or planning to report a violation of state or federal law. Unfortunately, the state Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that employees may not claim wrongful discharge if an employer terminates them in retaliation for their application for unemployment benefits due to a reduction in hours.
Naturally, an employer may willingly offer a contract to employees as a means of attracting talent or to protect them legally in other ways. The implied contract exception makes clear that these contracts are legally binding. What is interesting about this exception is that it extends to cover materials other than formal contracts. For example, if an employer publishes an employee handbook that contains language about actions that are grounds for discharge, the court might recognize that as a legally binding contract if the employee implicitly accepts the terms by continuing to work after reviewing them.
Other State Protections
Some other specific protections are offered to Minnesota employees under state law. If an employee is fired, they have the right to request a truthful written reason as to why they were fired within 15 days of the termination. The employer must provide the written reason within 10 days of the request. If an employee is terminated, their owed wages are due within 24 hours of the termination unless they were entrusted with money or property belonging to the employer, in which case the employer has 10 days to perform an audit before making the final payment. Unpaid benefits (such as severance packages and vacation time) are also due to a terminated employee within 30 days.
All employers in Minnesota are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance covers both injuries and illnesses that are either caused or made worse by the conditions and duties of the job. Employees who make a successful workers’ compensation claim are entitled to have their medical expenses related to the condition paid by the employer as well as to recover part of their lost income. Vocational rehabilitation services must also be made available if the injury prevents you from returning to your job.
These claims are made directly to the employer. The first step is reporting the injury or condition to a direct supervisor as soon as possible. Employers then have 10 days to report the claim to their insurance company. Most claims of this nature are accepted, but the insurance company does have some legal right to deny the claim. If they do, however, Minnesota law states they must provide a credible basis for denying the claim.
If you believe you have been unfairly terminated from employment or have been unfairly denied a compensation claim, experienced legal representation gives you the best possible chance of getting justice. Contact us anytime to learn more.