Black History Month: Minnesota Human Rights Act

The Minnesota Human Rights Act passed in 1967 and prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, public services, education, credit, and business based on protected class, such as: race, religion, disability, national origin, sex, marital status, familial status, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Considered one of the strongest civil rights laws in the country when it was originally passed, the Human Rights Act maintains that distinction today and affords protections for Minnesotans across many areas of life.

The act has been updated many times to reflect the growing need to address systemic racism. The act was updated in 1969 to make it illegal for an employer to maintain an employment system that excludes applicants based on race or any other protected class status. The Criminal Offenders Rehabilitation Act was added in 1974, limiting the ability of state and local government employers and licensing agencies to refuse employment or licensure to individuals based on criminal history.

Added in 1990 was a section making it an illegal practice to engage in an intentional refusal to do business or to refuse contract with someone based on their race or other protected class status. The Ban the Box initiative was added for public employees in 2009, which allows candidates with an arrest or conviction on their record an opportunity to be evaluated on their skills and experience before their criminal history is considered when applying for jobs. Ban the Box was expanded in 2013 to include private employers as well. Statewide workforce participation goals increased for communities of color in Greater MN under the act in 2017, and the Legislature continues to evaluate and update the Human Rights Act as it continues to address and work to eliminate discrimination.

The history of Minnesota’s Human Rights Act has shown that we can fight discrimination, but it also shows that the fight is far from over. Senate DFLers are fully committed to addressing the growing social and racial inequities that the pandemic has laid bare.