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Joshua Newville, Minnesota Employment Lawyer, Civil Rights Attorney, and Mediator

Sexual harassment is where a person suffers unwelcome sexual advances or behavior of a sexual nature, such as:  lewd remarks, derogatory comments, touching, groping, sharing of pornography, or assault. The law prohibits sexual harassment in certain places and settings.

Minnesota Mediator and Investigator for Sexual Harassment Claims

As an employment law mediator and investigator who handles claims involving state and federal law, I am familiar with the laws prohibiting sexual harassment. I seek to help parties who are locked in dispute regarding such matters resolve their disputes, including harassment victims, employees, and employers.

Legally speaking, what is sexual harassment in Minnesota?

Sexual harassment in Minnesota is governed by both federal law and state law, specifically Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA).


Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical contact, or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature when:

  • Submission to that conduct or communication is made a term or condition, either explicitly or implicitly, of obtaining employment, public accommodations or public services, education, or housing.

  • Submission to or rejection of that conduct or communication by an individual is used as a factor in decisions affecting that individual's employment, public accommodations or public services, education, or housing.

  • That conduct or communication has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's employment, public accommodations or public services, education, or housing, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment, public accommodations, public services, education, or housing environment.

What amounts to sexual harassment in Minnesota?

Sexual harassment in Minnesota, as in other states, can take many forms, including but not limited to:

  • Unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors.

  • Inappropriate touching, leering, or comments.

  • Displaying explicit material such as posters, screensavers, calendars, or drawings.

  • Offensive jokes or comments of a sexual nature.

  • Online harassment, including via email or social media.

Sexual harassment can occur between any individuals in the workplace, regardless of their sex or gender, and it can be perpetrated by supervisors, coworkers, or even non-employees in some cases.


What are Minnesota employer's obligations regarding sexual harassment?

Employers have several key obligations when it comes to preventing and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. Here are some important responsibilities:

  • Policy Creation and Dissemination: Employers should develop a clear, comprehensive policy that prohibits sexual harassment. This policy should define sexual harassment, provide examples, express the company's zero-tolerance stance, and outline the steps for reporting a complaint. This policy should be included in the employee handbook, and employees should be required to acknowledge in writing that they have received and understood the policy.

  • Training: Employers should regularly conduct sexual harassment training for all employees, including managers and supervisors. This training should cover what constitutes sexual harassment, how to prevent it, and how to report it. It's important that supervisors receive training on how to appropriately respond to complaints and how to avoid retaliation.

  • Reporting Mechanisms: Employers should establish a clear, easily accessible procedure for reporting sexual harassment. There should be multiple avenues for reporting to ensure that an employee can bypass their direct supervisor if that person is the one accused of harassment.

  • Investigations: When a complaint of sexual harassment is made, the employer must promptly conduct a fair, thorough, and impartial investigation. The investigation should be conducted by a trained individual and should respect the confidentiality of all parties involved to the greatest extent possible.

  • Taking Appropriate Action: If an investigation determines that sexual harassment has occurred, the employer must take prompt and effective remedial action. This might involve disciplining or terminating the harasser, providing additional training, changing work schedules or assignments to avoid contact between the parties, or other appropriate responses.

  • Prevention of Retaliation: Employers must protect employees who report sexual harassment, participate in a harassment investigation, or oppose harassment from retaliation. This means the employer must not take any adverse employment action (like firing, demotion, pay cuts) against these employees and should take steps to prevent retaliation from other employees.

  • Regular Review: Employers should regularly review and update their policies, training, and practices to ensure they are effective in preventing and addressing harassment.

Failure to meet these obligations can lead to legal liability for the employer. Employers may be held responsible for sexual harassment that they knew or should have known about, unless they can show that they took immediate and appropriate action to correct the harassment. Employers can also be held liable for retaliation against those who report harassment or participate in harassment investigations.

Given the complexity of these issues, employers often find it beneficial to consult with an attorney or HR consultant who specializes in employment law to ensure they are in compliance with all applicable laws and best practices.

What can victims of sexual harassment do in Minnesota?

Victims of sexual harassment have several avenues for recourse. They can report the harassment internally, such as to a supervisor, manager, or human resources department. They can also file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. In some cases, victims may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the harasser and/or the employer.

Related Topics:

Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
Minnesota Employment Discrimination Attorney
Minnesota Whistleblower Attorney
Minnesota Legal Investigations Attorney
Minnesota Wrongful Termination Attorney
Minnesota Retaliation Attorney
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