Minnesota Legislative Session Coming Down to the Wire

Date: May 14, 2014

Related Content: NFIB in My State State Minnesota

It is no big surprise but the legislature will not adjourn
early as legislative leaders had hoped.  They entered the last week of the
session with some major items that still need to be dealt with and must adjourn
by next Monday, May 19th.  They did manage to keep the session
relatively short, to 12 weeks, which is much shorter than many past short
sessions. 

 

Senate Majority Caucus Folds Again on New Lawsuit Provisions against
Employers in Women’s Bill

HF2536, Rep. Carly Melin (Hibbing) Sen. Sandy Pappas (St Paul)

 

A major disappointment occurred last week when the Senate
Majority Caucus caved again and accepted a conference committee report that
contained three new lawsuit provisions that will give employees new rights to
sue their employers.  Most disappointing was the fact that the Senate’s
version of the Women’s bill did not contain any of these provisions, but they
completely conceded to House members in the conference committee and the
leadership and most majority caucus senators voted for it.  Senator Julie
Rosen (Fairmont) tried to send the bill back to the conference committee to
rework some of these damaging lawsuit provisions and that unfortunately failed
by a single vote.  This is similar to what occurred on the minimum wage
issue; the Senate has not stood strong behind its more moderate, sensible
positions on these bills and the House prevails. The bill was signed into
law by Governor Dayton on Sunday.

 

The worst of the three new lawsuit provisions is adding
familial status for employment purposes to the Minnesota Human Rights Act,
which is Minnesota’s employment discrimination law. The other two new rights to
sue do not involve the Human Right Act.  This is a dramatic and unworkable
expansion of the Act and will likely cause many new lawsuits to be filed
against employers, be they private, public, or nonprofit by their employees.
The familial status provision dramatically expands the Human Rights Act to any
worker who has children under age 18 and we fear it’s very unworkable.

 

It is also a big departure from the vast majority of the
protected classes under the Human Rights Act, such as race, religion, national
origin and more recently, sexual orientation and disability have been added
 With this latest law change we are now covering situations involving
the
worker, such as trying to juggle family needs and do their job, versus clearly
defined protective classes that involve an inherent or permanent characteristic
of the person or plaintiff
.  Did family obligations really cause the
person to do their job inadequately or are they just a poor performer? Did
family obligations really cause them to miss work or is it just an
excuse?  The various cases will still be decided on the facts, but elevating
the plaintiff or the worker to a protected class gives them a leg up and they
can also receive the assistance of the Department if they choose. 

 

Discrimination cases under the Human Rights Act can be
costly and threatening for small businesses.  The cost of simply
responding to a complaint can range from $5,000 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.  NFIB strongly
opposed the conference report on the Women’s Economic Security Act and
tenaciously lobbied right up to the last minute.  It was very
disappointing to come so close to achieving a victory and forcing the bill to
be rewritten.

 

 

Related Content: NFIB in My State | State | Minnesota

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