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Discrimination claim filed against Oprah Winfrey by ex-employee

Residents of Minnesota may be aware of numerous labor laws that protect them from discrimination in the workplace. Recently, an ex-employee of the Oprah Winfrey Network filed suit against the network, claiming disability discrimination. The plaintiff claims that she received favorable feedback for her work while employed by OWN, and that she was on the road to becoming a vice president, until she became pregnant and was compelled to take a medical leave.

During her pregnancy, she was replaced by a temporary staff member, and claims she was slowly stripped of her professional duties. Following the birth of her child, the ex-employee was told that her services had been terminated. She alleges that she was discriminated against for being a woman in addition to being a victim of wrongful termination.

The plaintiff claims that her demotion and termination were the direct outcome of her being pregnant and requiring maternity leave. She is seeking unspecified damages, and has filed charges for disability discrimination, sex discrimination, failure to prevent discrimination, retaliation and failing to pay wages upon termination.

Discrimination against an employee on the basis of origin, appearance, identity or status is unjust, unfair and illegal. Many laws across the United States, including Minnesota, have been formulated to protect employees from unlawful discrimination. The primary federal statute, which prohibits discrimination in the workplace, is Title VII under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act was amended in 1991 with the aim of improving and strengthening the federal civil rights laws. The Act provides for compensation to the victims of intentional employment discrimination, and for the clarification of the provisions relating to disparate impact actions.

The Minnesota Human Rights Act offers comprehensive protection to employees at the workplace, and extends the rights of workers in areas not covered by the federal statute. Minnesota victims of wrongful termination should become fully aware of their civil rights as protected by both the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the American Disabilities Act.

Source: Examiner.com, "Oprah hit with lawsuit: Former employee claims discrimination," Effie Orfanides, Feb. 2, 2013.

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