St. Paul (April 25, 2014) – A bill that would expand the state Human Rights Act to define almost everyone as a “caregiver” would cause a significant number of lawsuits against small businesses and other employers, said the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) today.
“The Women’s Economic Security Act contains several positive provisions for working women, but there are several provisions in the House version of the bill that would dramatically expand the Human Rights Act and extend the ability to sue employers, be they private or public, under the Act,” said NFIB Minnesota State Director Mike Hickey.
Hickey noted that NFIB has a significant number of female members who lead and run companies. The organization, he said, is sensitive to women’s issues.
The worst of them, said Hickey, would create a new protected status for caregivers/familial status under the act.
“This is totally unworkable,” said Hickey. “The way this bill is drafted, virtually everyone would fall under the Human Rights Act at some point in their lives. Many would fall under the act several times in their lives. They would be eligible to bring a claim against their employer in the event something negative happened to them in the workplace while they happened to be a caregiver.”
Hickey pointed out that the Human Rights Act boosts a plaintiff’s claim by allowing for additional damages in some cases, and the reimbursement of attorney’s fees and court costs in all cases. That creates incentives for attorneys to take cases they may not normally pursue.
Typically, if any sort of settlement is reached, no matter how small, it usually involves the reimbursement of attorney’s fees also.
“These types of claims can be very threatening and expensive for small businesses and we are strongly opposed to the significant expansion of the Human Rights Act contained in the House version of the bill,” said Hickey.
In virtually all cases the Human Rights Act is based on the characteristic of the individual or the plaintiff and does not involve or cover situations relating to them or in which they find themselves, including situations in which they are providing care.
“This is not what the Act was intended to be,” said Hickey.
The bill also expands this new right to sue under the Human Rights Act for nursing mothers in the workplace and for employees who become involved in wage disclosure disputes with their employer, which is not appropriate or reasonable. The Senate substituted a regulatory remedy for one of these provisions, which is far preferable and importantly, resolves the dispute for the employee more quickly.
According to Hickey the Senate bill is far preferable and does not contain any of these new expansions in the Human Rights Act. He applauded Senators who, on a bipartisan basis, worked to address the problems with the bill. NFIB is pushing senators to reject the House language regarding these provisions in the conference committee and insist on the more reasonable and workable Senate language.
For more information about NFIB, please visit www.nfib.com.