February 28th, 2013

Minnesota workers are entitled to employment protections under both federal and state laws. In many aspects of employment law, Minnesota is a progressive state, with state laws offering additional prohibitions against certain types of workplace discrimination. The distinction between federal and state laws can be of minimal importance to employees who simply benefit from whichever coverage applies and provides the most workplace protections.

The type of law does become significant when a workplace violation occurs, however, because an aggrieved employee typically must file an administrative claim either with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For example, when an employee believes an employer violated a provision of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the claim might be filed with the MDHR. An employment discrimination involving federal law, in contrast, might be filed with the EEOC.

When a claim of discrimination in the workplace is brought under both federal and state employment laws, the MDHR and EEOC may share jurisdiction. In such event, an employee often may file a charge with either agency, which will count as a cross-filing with the other agency. Only one of the agencies, however, will investigate the claim and make a finding.

Since an employment discrimination claim typically begins with an agency finding, workers rely on those personnel to issue a prompt determination. However, MDHR recently released a report showing a substantial backlog of employment discrimination cases. Of the 842 pending cases, 169 were more than one year old. The report also indicates that the average claim takes almost one year to close.

A representative of the state agency reports that Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed budget may provide for the hiring of two additional employees. In the meantime, an experienced employment law attorney may have additional strategies to help victims of discrimination in the workplace streamline a path to justice.

Source: kstp.com, “Minn. Discrimination Case Backlog Weighing Down Judicial System,” Stephen Tellier, Feb. 22, 2013.

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