Minnesota Workplace Harassment Lawyers
Do you currently work in an environment where your bosses or coworkers say things that make you uncomfortable? Have you previously worked in one of these environments? If you’ve ever been a victim of workplace harassment, you know it can take a toll on your mental and physical health. In Minnesota, there are laws to protect employees from harassment. If you are not sure if you’ve been a victim of workplace harassment, this article will explain the different types and how you may be entitled to compensation for your struggles.
The attorneys at 612-INJURED are ready to fight for your rights today. We only focus on the employee, so you can be sure that we fight for you.
What Is Workplace Harassment?
In Minnesota, workplace harassment is when your employer discriminates against you based on your status in one of the protected classes. A protected class is a group of people or certain characteristics that people may have in common. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines workplace harassment as any “unwelcome conduct” based on these same protected classes. An employer cannot make decisions based on hiring, firing, promoting, or creating tension around anyone who may fall into these groups. Protected classes in Minnesota include:
- National Origin
- Marital Status
- Public Assistance
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender Identity
- Familial Status
- Local Human Rights Commission Activity
For example, if your employer consistently promotes your male counterparts while you are a female with the same skills, you may be a victim of workplace discrimination. Another example might be if you are a young male employee and do not currently have a significant other and children. Still, your supervisor or coworkers regularly ask if you’re getting married or when “you’ll settle down and have children.” You may be a victim of workplace harassment. Sometimes workplace discrimination and harassment may be easy to spot, whereas other times, it is much more challenging to see.
What Is “Unwelcome Conduct”?
Based on the EEOC’s definition of harassment (any “unwelcome conduct” based on the above-protected classes), we are faced with determining what precisely “unwelcome conduct” is and what it is not. The EEOC uses a two-prong test to determine if the conduct is considered unwelcome and is therefore harassment.
The test’s first prong is to determine if you (the employee) must continue to endure the conduct to remain employed at that company. The second prong involves showing that a reasonable person would consider the conduct intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
These prongs may sound broad and challenging to prove. Still, a skillful attorney like the attorneys at 612-INJURED can help you determine if the conduct you have been experiencing may be considered unwelcome conduct and rise to the level of harassment.
Laws That Prevent Workplace Harassment
Many laws may help protect Minnesotans who have been victims of workplace harassment. Some of these laws are created and enforced by the federal government, and some are created by the Minnesota legislature.
Title VII Of The Civil Rights Act Of 1964
In 1964, the federal government passed a law prohibiting employment discrimination based on specific protected categories. These protected classes were primarily based on the employee’s physical and family status. The protected classes are similar to what the current Minnesota law protects. The original classes Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protected were:
- National Origin
These original classes helped protect employees in the 1960s. Still, throughout the years, the federal government realized they needed to expand these areas to incorporate more people and create new classes to ensure every employee was entitled to the protection they deserve. Currently, the above categories have been expanded to include the following:
- Sex – meaning pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity
- Age – if you are forty or older
- Genetic Information – includes family medical history
The new and expanded categories can help employees ensure their claims can be heard when they feel they have been harassed or discriminated against in the workplace.
Minnesota Human Rights Act
In 1967, the Minnesota legislature established the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR). This department was created to replace the State Commission Against Discrimination. When the MDHR was created, the legislature also created specific procedures for enforcing the Minnesota State Act Against Discrimination. These procedures established how the investigation, public hearing, and appeal process would function.
In 1973, the Act was renamed the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The Act was also amended to create the protected classes of marital status, disability, or status concerning public assistance. Between 1973 and the current day, the Minnesota Human Rights Act has undergone significant changes to account for our present times.
Today, the Minnesota Human Rights Act adds two more protected categories. These categories are for those who receive public assistance or participate in a human rights organization. The legislature believed these were important categories to add since no employee should be denied a job or treated differently in their current job just because they are receiving government benefits or exercising their right to be a member of a human rights organization.
The Minnesota Human Rights Act protects against workplace harassment since it is included in workplace discrimination. Discrimination is commonly seen as a one-time-only event, whereas harassment is ongoing. An employment lawyer can help you determine your best path forward before it is too late.
Who Is Protected From Workplace Harassment?
Everyone who lives, works, or exists in Minnesota is a part of more than one of the above-protected classes in some way or another. You may be wondering if you qualify under the law’s protections – what if you are not a citizen of Minnesota? What if you are an undocumented worker? What if you are an unpaid summer intern?
The Minnesota Human Rights Act protects just what it describes – human rights. Even if you are not a Minnesota citizen or do not have the legal right to work in the United States, you can use the protections afforded to you in the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Yes, this even applies to unpaid interns. If you are in a position within a company, you can be protected by the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
When Are You Protected From Workplace Harassment?
Many people assume that the hiring process is the only time when you are not allowed to be asked questions about the specific areas above, but that is not the case. The Minnesota Human Rights Act protects you, from the first contact with the employer throughout your entire employment with them, and even after you leave your employment.
If you feel you are being harassed in a workplace in Minnesota, you may be able to bring a claim for a Hostile Work Environment even if you haven’t quit or been fired yet. This claim is based on unlawful discrimination. Discrimination may be proven to be unlawful if it is based on one of the categories above. We’ll discuss later what you should do if you feel you are currently a victim of workplace harassment.
MN Employment Lawyers For Workplace Harassment
Federal and state laws protect individuals from sexual harassment in the workplace. Therefore, if you believe you have a harassment or hostile work environment claim against your employer, it is essential that you contact an attorney familiar with hostile work environment claims as soon as possible to determine how federal law or state law protects you. Contact the attorneys at 612-INJURED for a free, confidential consultation to learn more.
Types Of Workplace Harassment
If you feel you may be a victim of workplace harassment, it may be helpful for you to classify what type of harassment you are the victim of. Knowing and understanding the different types of workplace harassment can help you protect yourself or people you care about by being able to spot it before any harassment begins. Your specific situation may not fall into any of these categories, but they may help you determine if you are a victim of workplace harassment.
Abuse Of Power
Abuse of power harassment usually happens between a manager and an employee. This relationship allows the manager to gain a sense of power over the employee. If the manager abuses their position or title and makes unreasonable demands of their employees, it may be considered harassment.
A manager’s demand of an employee may be seen as unreasonable if they ask the employee to do something significantly outside of their job description – either above or below. An example of this may be asking a new, inexperienced employee to perform a task that is typically done by a manager or even asking the vice president of the company to field calls and greet customers for a day when their usual job description is to give and create presentations to other potential business partners. In either scenario, the employee is looked down upon because they either cannot perform the task or are used to and paid to do different work.
Another example of abuse of power is dramatically shifting deadlines of a project without giving the employees adequate notice or making demands during the employee’s non-working hours. Let’s say your major project is due in six weeks, and you’ve been steadily working on it for the past month, but you still have about four or five weeks left of work to do, but then your boss tells you you must have your project done tomorrow. It’s pretty much impossible! When this happens, you feel small, defeated, and worn down. If your boss consistently makes changing demands like these, they may be harassing you based on an abuse of power in the workplace relationship.
Psychological harassment is typically the type of harassment most people think about in a workplace. This type of harassment might be obvious, or it might only be seen by the victim. Classic signs of psychological harassment include excluding an employee from a gathering, consistently dismissing all of their ideas either in front of their colleagues (in a meeting setting) or even just one-on-one, or making the employee the victim of jokes or pranks.
This type of harassment may often be done by either the boss or fellow employees. It typically starts as a good-natured joke or even as a game between coworkers. When one party takes the joking too far too many times, though, it can be considered harassment.
Online bullying is a type of harassment that may be more prevalent in certain industries than others. Usually, online bullying is seen when all employees have access to a work computer and email. Since the pandemic, when many companies had to work from home, many companies have used remote working platforms to communicate. These platforms can be beneficial for work communication that used to be done in person, but they are also a great home for online bullying.
Examples of online bullying harassment may be receiving an inappropriate message from a coworker, being involved in gossiping about other coworkers, or using emojis that are not appropriate for the workplace. Some companies have banned the use of emojis altogether. Finally, another example of online bullying that has become increasingly present is coworkers sending messages at all hours of the day and night. This feels like you don’t have any personal time and may be considered harassment.
Finally, the least common type of harassment is retaliation. This is when you, as the employee, are punished for something you did rather than for who you are. This commonly happens after you speak up about misconduct by your supervisor or other employees. Retaliation is a defense mechanism used by employers to try to make the employee stop talking before the employee creates a “bigger problem.” Many times, the employer will threaten to fire the employee for making a complaint, or they will take away or add job duties to make your work life miserable.
If you’ve spoken up about misconduct at your place of employment and have suffered retaliation because of it, we can help. Call the attorneys at 612-INJURED at (612) 465-8733.
What Should You Do If You’ve Been A Victim?
If you feel like you have been or currently are a victim of workplace harassment, what should you do?
First, you should contact the lawyers at 612-INJURED to help you determine the next best steps in your case. We can help you through the difficult scenario you may be in and help you walk away from an abusive workplace.
Next, you should start documenting everything! It will be easier if you have a log of each incident that occurred and any other individuals who may have been part of the incident. If you can take screenshots or save documents showing the comments or various types of discrimination, that may also be helpful.
Finally, if you have already made complaints with your supervisor or human resources department, you’ll need to show that the management has taken no action to improve the situation. If you have not made a complaint, you should consult with your attorney first to determine the best way to make your complaint so that it may help you in the future.
If you’ve been a victim of workplace harassment, know that you are not alone. We can help you throughout the process and protect other innocent employees from being harmed as you have.
How An Employment Attorney Can Help
Consulting with an experienced employment attorney who routinely handles workplace harassment claims can help you win your case. The attorneys at 612-INJURED can help you get the compensation you deserve. If you have been a victim of workplace discrimination or feel you are currently suffering from discrimination at work, schedule an appointment with us today by calling (612) 465-8733.