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Sexual harassment ruling leads to conflicted message

In the state of Minnesota, as in states all across the country, court rulings may be reviewed and rejected in cases where either party appeals a judgment. Often times, the appeals process confirms the validity of the original verdict. Though, other times further examination may challenge the court’s findings. This seems to be the case in one sexual harassment case, now that three Minnesota courts have heard the charges and voiced conflicting concerns on the issue.

Three female employees filed a workplace discrimination lawsuit against their employer and affiliated companies, naming one business owner as a defendant. The Twin Harbors, Minnesota, district court judge in that case ultimately found, though, that the workers’ accusations did not meet the Minnesota Human Rights Act’s specifications for sexual harassment. Although, the judge did agree that the defendant’s language and actions toward the three women were sexually inappropriate.

After the state’s Court of Appeals overturned that ruling, the district court judge was ordered to award the harassment victims’ with appropriate damages. It was at that point that the defendant questioned the appeals court decision, bumping the case up to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Now, the Supreme Court has decided that the original district court judge needs to reevaluate the case. The higher court’s ruling notes that the judge was wrong to find that the victims did not have a case, and so requires it to be heard again.

Though, even that ruling is not unanimous among the state’s Supreme Court justices. It arrived as a split decision, as three of the seven judges argued that the victims were successful in proving their case and it should be officially settled.

By forcing the victims to defend their accusations again, the Supreme Court may be implying that discrimination victims must fight to be heard at all.

Source: twincities.com, “Two Harbors sexual harassment case splits Minnesota Supreme Court,” Mark Stodghill, May 23, 2013

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