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Minnesota moves to catch up with discrimination cases

A number of federal and Minnesota laws are designed to protect workers from discrimination at the workplace. Employment discrimination based on someone's race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age or religion is generally against Minnesota law. Workers who have been discriminated against can rely on the law to remedy the problem. Unfortunately, however, the system doesn't always make it as easy as it should be.

A recent report found that Minnesota courts are falling behind in resolving discrimination cases. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights reported that at the end of last year it had a backlog of over 840 cases. On average, the report said, resolving a case took 325 days. Some cases took 18 months or more. At the federal level, the problem is even worse, with a backlog of more than 80,000 cases.

The good news is that Minnesota is making moves to close the gap. The Department of Human Rights has recently instituted more efficient standards to try to speed up these cases. Gov. Mark Dayton has also proposed adding more employees to the DHR to help it catch up.

Federal laws such as the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Immigration Reform and Control Act were meant to protect Americans from discrimination in hiring and firing, and to protect them from hostile work environments. But even without the backlog and delays, successfully pursuing a claim under these laws can be challenging. Victims must gather the right evidence and try to navigate the difficulties of the legal system. Working with a legal professional, however, can help discrimination victims present a solid case and hold an employer accountable for violations.

The law is supposed to discourage employers from engaging in discriminatory practices and encourage them to foster a safe and welcoming work environment. When the system works as it should, the result is a better life for all Minnesotans.

Source: KSTP.com, "Minn. Discrimination Case Backlog Weighing Down Judicial System," Stephen Tellier, Feb. 22. 2013

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