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
“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
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
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
For more information about
NFIB, please visit www.nfib.com.