St. Paul (May 9, 2014) A bill passed last night by the Minnesota State Senate will generate more lawsuits against small employers, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) warned today.
“We understand the Legislature wanted to pass a bill to help working women and we have no problem with that, but we are deeply disappointed that many majority party Senators agreed to three new lawsuit provisions in the conference committee that were never in the Senate bill,” said NFIB Minnesota State Director Mike Hickey. “The Senate totally conceded to the House on these three controversial provisions. They did a good job of not expanding litigation in their bill and we wish they would have held firm in conference committee on these issues involving new litigation.”
One of those provisions would add familial status as a protected class under the state Human Rights Act.
“Last night the Senate chose to dramatically expand the Human Rights act to workers with children under age 18 which is a big departure from the current law” said Hickey. “This is a dramatic and unworkable expansion of our Human Rights Act and will likely cause many new lawsuits to be filed against employers of all types, private, public or nonprofit.”
Hickey explained that the Human Rights Act was originally intended to cover traditional protected classes, such as racial, ethnic or religious minorities and more recently sexual orientation and disability have been added.
“The vast majority of these protected classes involve an inherent or permanent characteristic of the person but now we are expanding it to situations involving the person or the plaintiff and we fear this is not workable.”
Discrimination cases under the Human Rights Act can be costly and threatening for small businesses” said Hickey.
“The cost of simply responding to a complaint can range $5000 to $25,000. A case heard before an administrative law judge can cost from $50,000 to $100,000, and a full trial in district court can cost double to triple that amount,” he said.
The other two provisions, which relate to disputes arising from the wage disclosure and nursing mother laws, would be handled under state labor law and not the Human Rights Act, said Hickey. Those, he said, while concerning, could hopefully be resolved in a less adversarial and costly manner.
For more information about NFIB, please visit www.nfib.com.