Common Employment Issues and Where to Go for Help

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Some employees receive less in wages than they expect.  This might occur because an employer does not pay for all hours worked, makes unexpected deductions from wages, misses a scheduled payday, or simply fails to pay employees at all.  Here are some of the Minnesota laws that apply to wages:

Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry
443 Lafayette Road North
St. Paul, MN  55155
(651) 284-5070

United States Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
Tri-Tech Center, Suite 920
331 Second Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55401-2233
(612) 370-3341 or (866) 487-9243


Minnesota law generally doesn’t require employers to provide employees with fringe benefits in addition to wages.  Some employees receive benefits at work, like vacation, sick time, and employer contributions to retirement.  These benefits are based on an agreement between an employer and employee.  An employer that does not pay agreed upon benefits to an employee may be subject to a “breach of contract” claim in court. 

Other benefits are required by law:

Personnel Files

An employer’s personnel file might provide information that would be of assistance to an employee. 

Employee or Independent Contractor

Some workers have difficulty figuring out whether they are an employee or independent contractor.  Minnesota’s wage and hour laws do not apply if the worker is considered to be an independent contractor under Minnesota law.  Whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee is a complicated issue, based on a number of factors.  Generally, a worker is an employee when an employer controls when the worker works, what the worker does, and how the worker does his or her job.  A worker is an independent contractor when the worker controls when, where, and how a job gets done.  (See, e.g., Minn. Stat. §§ 176.043, 181.723; Minn. R. ch. 5224.)  You may wish to consult with an attorney if you have questions whether you are an employee or independent contractor. 

Working Conditions

The state and federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) laws require employers to provide employees with a safe and healthy work environment free from any known hazards that can cause death, injury, or illness.  Employers must provide employees with information about any hazardous chemicals or harmful physical agents that the employees may be exposed to at work.  Employers must also provide employees with necessary personal protective equipment and training. 

Whistleblower Protection

Minnesota’s Whistleblower Act prohibits an employer from firing, disciplining, threatening, or otherwise discriminating against an employee because the employee, in good faith, reports a violation, suspected violation, or planned violation of any federal or state law or common law or rule adopted pursuant to law, or refuses an employer’s order to perform an action that the employee objectively believes violates such a law.  (Minn. Stat. § 181.932.)  An employee who is retaliated against in violation of the Act may bring a private civil action in court to enforce the Act.  (Minn. Stat. § 181.935.)

Employment Discrimination:

If you are an “at will” employee, your employer generally does not need a reason to fire you.  The Minnesota Human Rights Act, however, does generally prohibit a Minnesota employer from discriminating against an employee or job applicant based on the employee’s membership in a protected class, unless it is a bona fide occupational qualification.  (Minn. Stat. § 363A.08, subd. 2.) 

Minnesota Department of Human Rights
540 Fairview Avenue North, Suite 201
Saint Paul MN 55104
(651) 539-1100 or (800) 657-3704

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Towle Building
330 South Second Avenue, Suite 720
Minneapolis, MN 55401-2224
(800) 669-4000

The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office cannot provide you with legal advice.  The information in this pamphlet is only intended to provide a general overview of some of the pertinent laws and the regulatory agencies that have authority to enforce them.  For more information, you should contact the regulatory agency indicated above or consult with a private attorney.

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