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Understanding workplace discrimination in Minnesota

Workers in the state of Minnesota are granted certain protections under state and federal laws. Beyond just assurances of fair wages and reasonable work hours, people are also safeguarded from harassment and discrimination in the workplace. In order to ensure that their rights are not infringed upon, it behooves employees to understand what constitutes employment discrimination.

The Minnesota Human Rights Act establishes employee rights with regard to discrimination. Under the act, employers may not discriminate against workers, or job applicants, based on the following factors:

  •        Sex
  •        Race or color
  •        National origin
  •        Religion
  •        Disability
  •        Sexual orientation

In addition, the act generally prohibits discrimination based on age, membership in local commissions and public assistance status. As such, these factors cannot be used as a cause for discharging workers, or when determining whom to hire, promotions and tenure, compensation, working conditions or employment privileges. Furthermore, it is considered an unfair practice for employers to implement systems that exclude people from seeking employment based on these factors.

While discrimination is generally prohibited under the act, there are certain exceptions. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, employment practices are generally not considered workplace discrimination if they are based on bona fide occupational qualifications. For example, it would not make sense for a men’s clothing designer to hire a female model. Other exemptions include circumstances involving religious organizations. For instance, if a Lutheran church were hiring a new clergy member, it would be more appropriate to hire a Lutheran employee, as opposed to someone who is Catholic. Additionally, those employing domestic servants, private service organizations, and employers who require pre-employment tests and physical exams may be exempt from employment discrimination protections in certain situations.

People who feel they have been the victims of workplace discrimination may find it helpful to seek legal counsel and representation. An attorney may help them understand their rights, and whether their situation qualifies as discrimination.

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