Minnesota House advances bill lowering bar to bring workplace harassment cases to court

Opponents said the bill could cause problems for business owners, people accused of harassment.
Lawmakers returned to the Minnesota State Capitol Jan. 8, 2019, for the reconvening of the Legislature. Michael Brun / Forum News Service
Lawmakers returned to the Minnesota State Capitol Jan. 8, 2019, for the reconvening of the Legislature. Michael Brun / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota House of Representatives on Thursday, March 21, advanced a bill that would add protections against sexual harassment in the workplace.

On a 113-10 vote, lawmakers approved a change that would add language to the Minnesota Human Rights Act clarifying that harassment does not need to be “severe or pervasive” before it can be deemed actionable in court. The high legal bar has kept cases from being heard and denied justice to people who've experienced harassment, supporters said.

"Victims have not received their day in court," Rep. Kelly Moller, DFL-Shoreview, said. “Today we take affirmative action about the #MeToo movement by saying, 'no more.'”

A similar proposal also passed the House in 2018 but never made it to the Senate floor. The proposal came after two lawmakers, a Senate Democrat and a House Republican, were accused of harassment and resigned from their positions.

Opponents of the bill said it could cause serious problems for business owners and could make it harder for those accused of harassment to receive due process.

“Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far,” Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, said. “They are not considering the potential harm done to the people who are being accused.”