In Minnesota, as in most every state, terminated employees are not eligible for unemployment benefits if they are dismissed for misconduct. In 2003, the legislature amended the statute to define "employment misconduct" as "any intentional, negligent, or indifferent conduct, on the job or off the job that displays clearly: (1) a serious violation of the standards of behavior the employer has the right to reasonably expect of the employee, or (2) that demonstrates a substantial lack of concern for the employment." However, despite this effort to more clearly define employee misconduct for purposes of unemployment compensation, there remains plenty of room for disagreement, depending upon the facts in each particular case. This dilemma was recently born out in Wilson v. Mortgage Resource Center, Inc. The Minnesota Supreme Court overturned an earlier decision of the Court of Appeals that had found an employee's misrepresentations about her education on her job application, did not constitute "employment misconduct." In disagreeing with the Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Supreme Court in effect recognized that employers have the right to reasonably expect the truth from job applicants. Still, the outcome of this case was determined by the particular facts of the case and therefore employers can learn from (and take advantage of) its lessons.
Minnesota statutes section 181.9413 permits employees to use "personal sick leave benefits" provided by their employers, for absences due to their child's illness or injury. In essence, then, state law "rewrites" employer sick leave benefits which, not surprisingly, typically require that the employee must be sick to use the benefit. The statute permits employees to receive paid sick leave when the employee is not sick, but is absent from work to care for a sick or injured child. As a result, Minnesota law allows employees to use sick leave for purposes not intended by their employers when providing such benefits. However, when the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) attempted to apply this statute to unlimited sick leave benefits provided for in a collective bargaining agreement between AT&T and a union representing some of its employees - the Communication Workers of America (CWA) - a federal judge ruled that Section 181.9413 is preempted by federal labor law. Holding that the Labor Management Relations Act preempted state law in this instance, the court permanently enjoined DOLI from bringing, or even investigating, claims against AT&T under Minnesota's sick leave statute on behalf of employees covered by the union contract.