Senate DFL members tried to make an important update to Minnesota’s sexual harassment laws this week through an amendment to a related bill. The amendment would change the Minnesota Human Rights Act’s definition of sexual harassment to remove the “severe or pervasive” legal standard currently used by judges to determine if any sexual harassment case could be heard in court. The “severe or pervasive” language makes it nearly impossible to charge a workplace sexual harassment case. DFL members shared stories of men and women forced to leave their jobs because they were sexually harassed on the job, and had no recourse due to the “severe or pervasive” standard.
The business community is opposing the language change because they fear it will open employers in Minnesota to many more sexual harassment lawsuits. The amendment was ruled not germane on a party line vote, with all Republicans in opposition to allowing the amendment, and was not adopted.
The underlying bill would require annual training on sex trafficking for individuals working in the hospitality industry. The Department of Health will help develop the training. State and local officials have gained a much greater understanding of how to recognize and respond to incidences of suspected sex trafficking after the state hosted the Super Bowl earlier this year. This new training will help equip those working in hotels and motels to take appropriate action to combat sex trafficking activities across the state.
While the amendment failed, the bill itself passed 65-0 and is waiting to be heard on the House floor. (SF 3367)