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Your Rights Filing a Discrimination Claim - Minnesota

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Employment discrimination is the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of other people at work, because of their membership in a legally protected category such as race, sex, age, or religion.  Each state has passed laws and rules to protect your workplace rights: this page covers Minnesota employment discrimination.  The purpose of Minnesota Human Rights Act is to protect workers in Minnesota from unlawful discrimination in employment. Read below to learn more about Minnesota employment law and how the law protects you.

1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in Minnesota?

The Minnesota Human Rights Act , makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation (including by definition, gender identity), status with regard to public assistance, disability or age. Minnesota law protects workers under 40 in age discrimination cases, unlike the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which only covers workers over 40.

2. How do I file a discrimination claim in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, it is possible to file a discrimination claim either with the state administrative agency, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have what is called a “work-sharing agreement,” which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. Filing a claim with both agencies is unnecessary, as long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you wish to “cross-file” with the other agency.

The Minnesota anti-discrimination statute covers employers of any size. Therefore, if your workplace has between 1 and 14 employees, you may wish to file with the MDHR, as the EEOC enforces federal law, which covers only employers with 15 or more employees. Filing with the MDHR is not required to pursue a discrimination claim directly in court. Yet if you do not have an attorney, you may wish to see whether the MDHR can assist you in resolving your claim without filing in court. MDHR complaints must be filed within 1 year of the date you believe you were discriminated against.

To file a claim with the MDHR, contact its office below. More information about filing a claim with MDHR can be found at Minnesota Department of Human Rights Website.

Minnesota Department of Human Rights 
St. Paul Office
625 Robert Street North
St. Paul, MN 55155 
Phone: (651) 296-1100
Toll free: (800) 657-3704 
TTY: (651) 296-1283

St. Cloud Regional Office
City Hall
400 2nd Street South
Phone: (320) 650-3133
Toll Free: (1-800) 657-3704
Fax: (320) 650-3223

To file a claim with the EEOC, contact your local EEOC office below. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at the EEOC Filing a Charge page.

EEOC — Minneapolis Area Office 
330 South Second Avenue 
Suite 430 
Minneapolis, MN 55401-2224 
Phone: (612) 335-4040 
TTY: (612) 335-4045

You may also wish to check with your city or county to see if you live and/or work in a city or county with a local anti-discrimination law, or "ordinance." Some cities and counties in Minnesota (including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Hennepin and Ramsey counties) have agencies that process claims under local ordinances and may be able to assist you. These agencies are often called the "Human Rights Commission," "Human Relations Commission," or the "Civil Rights Commission." Check your local telephone directory or government website for further information.

EEOC has launched an online service that enables individuals who have filed a discrimination charge to check the status of their charge online.  This service provides a portal to upload and receive documents and communicate with the EEOC, allowing for a faster transmitting period.  Those who have filed a charge can access information about their charge at their convenience, and allow entities that have been charged to receive the same information on the status of the charge.  All of the EEOC offices now use the Digital Charge System.  If you file on or after September 2, 2016, the Online Charge Status System is available for use.  The system is not available for charges filed prior to this date or for charges filed with EEOC's state and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies. The system can be accessed at the EEOC website. If you do not have internet or need language assistance, you may call the toll-free number at 1-800-669-4000. For additional help, you may also call the toll free number to retrieve the same information provided in the Online Charge Status System.

3. What are my time deadlines?

Do not delay in contacting the MDHR or EEOC to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. In order for these agencies to act on your behalf, you must file with the MDHR within 1 year or the EEOC within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible. Yet if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your claim with the state and federal administrative agencies.

4. What happens after I file a charge with the EEOC?

When your charge is filed, the EEOC will give you a copy of your charge with your charge number. Within 10 days, the EEOC will also send a notice and a copy of the charge to the employer. At that point, the EEOC may decide to do one of the following:

  • Ask both you and the employer to take part in a mediation program
  • Ask the employer to provide a written answer to your charge and answer questions related to your claim, then your charge will be given to an investigator
  • Dismiss the claim if your charge was not filed in time or if the EEOC does not have jurisdiction

If the EEOC decides to investigate your charge, the EEOC may interview witnesses and gather documents.  Once the investigation is complete, they will let you and the employer know the result. If they decides that discrimination did not occur then they will send you a “Notice of Right to Sue.” This notice gives you permission to file a lawsuit in a court of law. If the EEOC determines that discrimination occurred then they will try to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer. If a settlement cannot reached, your case will be referred to the EEOC’s legal staff (or the Department of Justice in certain cases), who will decide whether or not the agency should file a lawsuit. If the EEOC decides not to file a lawsuit then they will give you a “Notice of Right to Sue.”

How long the investigation takes depends on a lot of different things, including the amount of information that needs to be gathered and analyzed. On average, it takes the EEOC nearly 6 months to investigate a charge. A charge is often able to settle faster through mediation (usually in less than 3 months).

5. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Minnesota?

If your case is successfully resolved by an administrative agency, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney or file a lawsuit (to resolve your case, you probably will be required as to sign a release of your legal claims). If your case is not resolved by the MDHR or EEOC and you want to continue to pursue the matter, you will need to pursue your claim in court.

A federal employment discrimination case cannot be filed in court without first going to the EEOC, as discussed above, and the EEOC dismisses the charge. This process is called “exhaustion” of your administrative remedy. Exhaustion is not required to file a discrimination claim in court based on state law.

Because Minnesota's state antidiscrimination law does not allow for a trial by jury, many Minnesota attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court; however cases may be filed in either state or federal court. A state court case will be decided by a judge instead of a jury.

Only once the EEOC issues the document known as “Dismissal and Notice of Rights” or “Notice of Right to Sue” (Form 161) can you file a case in federal court. Your discrimination suit then must be filed in federal court within 90 days. Cases filed in Minnesota state court must be filed within 1 year of the date you believe you were discriminated against. If you file a charge with the MDHR first, your case must be filed in state court no later than 45 days after your case is dismissed by the MDHR. These deadlines are called the “statute of limitations.” If you have received one of these agency dismissal letters, do not delay consulting with an attorney. If your lawsuit is not filed by the deadline, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case