Senator Karin Housley (R-St. Marys Point) introduced legislation on Monday to clarify existing law when it comes to cases of workplace sexual harassment. Under current law, employees alleging workplace harassment must prove the conduct “severe or pervasive” to move forward in court. Senate File 4031 would clarify the law so “an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment … does not require the harassing conduct or communication to be severe or pervasive.”
“This is about making the law as clear as possible and standing up to say, ‘Workplace harassment of any kind will not be tolerated in our state,’” said Senator Housley. “If an employee feels a line has been crossed, they should know the law has their backs – and that’s what this legislation does. It allows judges to consider other factors beyond the ‘severe or pervasive’ standard.”
— Karin Housley (@KarinHousley) April 23, 2018
While workplace sexual harassment is prohibited under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in Goins v. West Group a plaintiff must demonstrate the harassment was “so severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of the [plaintiff’s] employment and create an abusive working environment” for a case to move forward. This legislation would clarify the law so factors beyond the “severe or pervasive” standard could be considered. The legislation, if passed and signed into law, would go into effect August 1, 2018.
“This is a needed change to clarify what the law says,” Housley continued. “If this bill passes, Minnesota would become the first state in the nation to enact this sort of meaningful change to workplace harassment laws. This legislation lets women and men across Minnesota know their voices are being heard.”
Senator Karin Housley is in her second term representing Senate District 39, which includes Stillwater, Forest Lake, Lake Elmo, and other communities in Chisago and Washington counties. She serves as chairwoman of the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee.