Minnesota Workplace Sexual Harassment Laws: What You Need to Know

sexual harassment

No one should have to navigate the distressing terrain of sexual harassment and discrimination in their daily lives. It’s a deeply personal and often overwhelming experience that can leave individuals feeling isolated and uncertain about the path ahead. Knowing and understanding the law and your rights is essential when dealing with sexual harassment.

We recognize the emotional toll these situations can take and want you to know that you are not alone. This article aims to provide a guiding light through the complexities of Minnesota’s workplace sexual harassment laws. We will offer information, support, and a roadmap to help you navigate a journey toward justice. 

Sexual Harassment in Minnesota Defined

Sexual harassment, as defined by the State of Minnesota (Section 363A.03 subd. 43 MN Statutes), encompasses unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical contact, or other verbal and physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature. 

This occurs when:

  • Submission to such conduct or communication is a condition, either explicitly or implicitly, for obtaining employment, public accommodations, public services, education, or housing.
  • Submission to or rejection of the conduct or communication is used as a factor in decisions affecting an individual’s employment, public accommodations, public services, education, or housing.
  • The conduct or communication substantially interferes with an individual’s employment, public accommodations, public services, education, or housing, creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.

Sexual harassment encompasses a range of behaviors, including but not limited to:

  • Offering preferential treatment or making promises of such treatment in exchange for submitting to sexual conduct, which may involve soliciting or attempting to solicit an individual to engage in sexual activity for compensation or reward.
  • Imposing negative treatment or issuing threats of negative consequences for refusing to submit to sexual conduct.
  • Displaying unwelcome sexually suggestive objects or pictures, making graphic commentaries, creating suggestive or insulting sounds, engaging in leering, whistling, or making obscene gestures.
  • Making unwelcome sexual innuendoes, suggestive comments, jokes of a sexual nature, sexual propositions, or degrading sexual remarks, along with issuing threats.
  • Initiating unwelcome physical contact, including acts such as rape, sexual assault, molestation, or attempts to commit these assaults, as well as unwelcome touching, pinching, or brushing of or by the body.
  • Subjecting or threatening to subject an individual to unwelcome sexual attention or conduct.

It is important to note, too, that sexual assault/battery is different than sexual harassment and refers to non-consensual sexual acts and is treated as a criminal offense. It can also be addressed through civil lawsuits.  Sexual harassment pertains to unwanted sexual behavior in specific settings and is typically addressed through civil or institutional channels. Recognizing and addressing both issues is crucial to fostering safer and more respectful environments.

Reporting Sexual Harassment

If you have found yourself a victim of sexual harassment, it is imperative to comprehend the various avenues available for reporting, considering that such incidents can transpire in diverse settings. Recognizing and understanding your reporting options becomes a critical step in seeking resolution, as sexual harassment can manifest in workplaces, educational institutions, public spaces, or within communities.

Each setting may have specific policies and procedures in place, and being aware of these options empowers individuals to take the necessary steps toward addressing the issue and seeking justice. Here are some general steps to consider:

  • Internal Reporting — Check the specific policies or procedures in place for the organization, institution, or community where the harassment occurred. Report the harassment to a supervisor, relevant authority figure, or a designated individual within the specific setting.
  • External Reporting — Explore external avenues for reporting, such as government agencies or local authorities responsible for handling harassment complaints. Look into applicable anti-discrimination agencies or organizations that address harassment issues.
  • Legal Advice — Seek legal advice from professionals who focus on harassment cases to understand your rights and available options.
  • Documentation — Keep detailed records of incidents, including dates, times, locations, individuals involved, and any witnesses.
  • Community Resources — Identify community resources or support organizations that can assist and guide individuals facing harassment outside the workplace.

Legal Responsibilities of Employers in Addressing Sexual Harassment

If you have found yourself in a situation where you need to report sexual harassment but are afraid of what may happen, it’s important to know that in Minnesota, sexual harassment is strictly prohibited by state and federal laws.

If an employer is aware of or should have been aware of harassment but fails to take appropriate action to stop it, it can be held legally liable for fostering a hostile work environment.

One of the primary concerns for the victims of sexual harassment is the fear of retaliation. However, it is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who report sexual harassment. This means that if an employer terminates, demotes, or takes adverse action against an employee for reporting harassment, the victim can bring a lawsuit against the employer for retaliation.

Let Lori Peterson Get You the Justice You Deserve

Understanding workplace sexual harassment laws in Minnesota is essential to fostering a safe and respectful workplace for all. If you’ve been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, you don’t have to face this alone. As you consider your next steps, remember that seeking support is a powerful act of self-advocacy.

The Law Dog, Lori Peterson, is here to stand by you, providing legal guidance and support throughout your journey. Your courage in facing these challenges is commendable, and we are committed to assisting you in seeking justice and ensuring a workplace free from harassment.

If you have any questions or need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here for you every step of the way.