Minnesota has made progress regarding sexual harassment and protections against retaliation
A Minnesota House committee approved a bill in 2019 to make it easier for workplace sexual harassment victims to sue by lowering a legal bar that advocates say is too high. A Minnesota Senate committee unanimously approved a revamp of its internal sexual harassment policy on Monday in response to the #MeToo movement and after allegations of harassment prompted one senator to resign. The new policy, the first update in decades, explicitly lays out where an employee can turn if they feel they’ve been harassed or discriminated against, and it creates new options for investigating a report. Each report of harassment involving a staffer will either be investigated internally by the Senate, or the staffer has the option to seek a hearing with a retired judge.
Changes to current law:
The changes also apply to people at the Capitol who are not elected officials or staffers. That includes vendors, lobbyists, constituents or other individuals who routinely work inside the building. Previously, the Senate’s policy addressed only direct staff and lawmakers. Rep. Kelly Moller and other witnesses told a judiciary panel that Minnesota courts have adopted an unrealistically high legal standard that prevents many victims from pressing their claims in court. The state’s courts require that they prove the harassment was “severe or pervasive” for a case to succeed, borrowing a standard from federal law.”This bill is necessary to ensure that workers are safe in their workplaces,”
What is Sexual Harassment under Minnesota law:
Regardless of the relationship between the parties, under Minn. Stat. § 609.748, harassment is defined as:a single incident of physical or sexual assault;
- To invite, encourage, or solicit a third party to engage in sexual harassment or bullying
- A single incident of sharing private sexual images of someone without permission, includes cell phones and internet
- Repeated incidents (more than one) of intrusive or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that have a substantial adverse effect or are intended to have a substantial adverse effect on the safety, security or privacy of another (e.g., repeated phone calls, following a person, repeatedly coming to the Petitioner’s home after having been asked not to do so);
- Targeted residential picketing; or a pattern of attending public events after being notified that their presence is harassing to another
- Quid pro quo and retaliation laws have also been updated, in 2019.
Who can file?
The Petitioner does not have to have had a personal relationship with the Respondent. An adult can ask the court (petition) for an order for themselves or on behalf of their minor children if there have been incidents of harassment against their children. An adult can ask the court (petition) for an order on behalf of another adult if there is a court order granting legal guardianship. A Power of Attorney does not give someone the ability to file for a Harassment Restraining Order for another adult.
How to re-act to Sexual Harassment issues . . .
- Save documents that offer or delineates threats made by the harasser to submit to sexual harassment or to protect from it (quid pro quo sexual harassment). Make note, covering the dates, times, details, names of any witnesses.
- Document any comments and any different treatment you receive after your response to the episode. A sexual harassment hostile work environment after the harassment is the most frequent retaliation.
- Keep your notes in a safe place–especially not on your work computer or in an office desk drawer. If you are fired, you will be forbidden to take away any documents and key information will be conveniently lost.
- Keep copies of any notes or files the harasser sends you.
- The Supreme Court says that reporting sexual harassment is a requirement, before you can sue. Make sure you follow all your company rules about harassment. Most companies have someone to whom you can report the instances (and alternatives if your harasser is one of them). She recommends putting a written report in the hands of the person you report the incident to.
- File a sexual harassment complaint with the EEOC. You have between 180 and 300 days to file with the government commission. They will then review your claim and get back to you.