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Costs mount in Minnesota staffer's sex discrimination lawsuit

According to a recent news release, the Minnesota State Senate's legal costs in defending against the EEOC complaint filed by a former senior staffer -- a male -- have now topped $100,000. That leaves some Minnesota taxpayers questioning whether the Senate should maintain its defense.

The staffer had been having an affair with former GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, who resigned the day after several of her colleagues confronted her about the matter. The senior staffer was fired shortly after Koch's resignation.

The staffer filed a gender discrimination complaint against the Minnesota Senate with the EEOC, alleging he was wrongly fired from his $90,000-a-year position and was treated differently from other female workers who had similar relationships with state lawmakers.

To be sure, workplace romances are often frowned upon. However, does that give employers a right to fire at-will employees who engage in them? The EEOC has yet to issue its decision in this case. At a minimum, however, the story illustrates that potentially discriminatory behavior in the workplace can be directed against anyone, even those who belong to a majority demographic.

In Minnesota, federal and state laws offer protections against gender and sex discrimination. That means that employers cannot use gender as a basis for making employment decisions involving hiring, firing, compensation, layoffs, promotions, job training, working conditions, benefits, and other privileges.

However, many employees fear retaliation for reporting unlawful conduct by their supervisors. For that reason, employees might benefit from consulting with an attorney when deciding how to respond to discrimination in the workplace.

Source: MPR News, "Senate's Brodkorb legal bill hits six figures," Tim Pugmire, Aug. 23, 2012

· Our firm handles situations similar to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Minneapolis Wrongful Termination page.

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