Filing a Discrimination Claim - Minnesota

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 http://www.humanrights.state.mn.us.

Minnesota Department of Human Rights
Sibley Square at Mears Park
190 E. 5th Street, Suite 700
St. Paul, MN 55101
Phone: (651) 296-5663
Toll free: (800) 657-3704
TTY: (651) 296-1283

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 http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/howtofil.html.

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.

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. 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.