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Can I sue my employer for workplace discrimination?

When an employee suspects that he or she has been subjected to illegal discrimination on the job, particularly if the discrimination has significant economic consequences for the employee, it is important to understand what options are available in terms of seeking justice. Because there are protections against illegal discrimination under both state and federal law, as well as government agencies that handle discrimination complaints, employees have options.

In Minnesota, the Department of Human Rights is responsible for receiving and investigating complaints under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The department’s role is to act as a neutral enforcement agency, which entails receiving complaints, investigating cases, negotiating settlements when possible, and referring cases to the attorney general for litigation, when necessary. 

Employees are not required to file a discrimination complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, and may pursue a discrimination complaint directly in court. Those who choose to do so should work with an experienced attorney to ensure they build the strongest possible case and that all deadlines for filing are met and all technical procedures carefully followed.

Under federal law, the situation is a little different when it comes to filing discrimination complaints. Employees are required to file a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before they are able to pursue a private action in court. For most types of discrimination, an employee is not able to pursue a private discrimination action until he or she receives a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC.          

The EEOC is not legally required to provide Notice of Right to Sue until 180 days have passed after the day an employee filed a discrimination complaint. Notice of Right to Sue may be provided before that time at the agency’s discretion, though.  In our next post, we’ll say a bit more about pursuing a private action for workplace discrimination, and why it is important to work with an experienced attorney throughout the process.

Sources:

Minnesota Statutes, Section 363A.33

Workplacefairness.org, Filling a Discrimination Claim—Minnesota, Accessed May 26, 2017.

MN Department of Human Rights, Your Rights: MDHR’s Role, Accessed May 26, 2017.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Filing a Lawsuit, Accessed May 26, 2017

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