John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
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Man sues Minnesota town, alleges racial, religious discrimination

Minnesota and federal laws protect workers against racial discrimination and religious discrimination at work. When workers are fired, not hired, denied promotions or suffer other negative employment action because of prohibited discrimination, they can file claims against the employer. However, proving discrimination requires evidence and it can be hard to get solid evidence in many cases.

In one employment discrimination case currently under way in Minnesota, aformer coal handler for the public energy utility in the town of Willmar has sued the city and the city-owned utility, claiming that he was discriminated against at work because his heritage is Hispanic and he is a Mormon. The city denies any discrimination, saying that the man was fired because he failed to meet job requirements. The man counters that a supervisor told him he was meeting job expectations a week before he was fired.

The man began working for the utility in July 2011 and was fired about six months later. He was the only Hispanic employee at the utility at the time and was one of only three Mormons. He said during his employment, some of his supervisors and co-workers spread rumors that he was an illegal alien. One co-worker asked him about his religion. One of his supervisors, who was himself later fired, made a public statement that the utility had discrimination issues and that he had personally intervened to stop management from discriminating against the coal handler.

To prove that an employer violated anti-discrimination laws, workers generally must show that the employers were at least partly motivated by bias against race, religion or some other protected status. Employers commonly argue in their defense that their actions were motivated solely by business interests. That's why evidence is so sensitive in cases such as this -- the court needs to see what the employer was really thinking.

Minnesota residents who feel they have been discriminated against in the workplace should get help understanding their options. They need to know what kind of evidence they need and how to document discrimination.

Source: West Central Tribune, "Former coal handler files lawsuit against city of Willmar, Minn., utility," July 30, 2013

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