For many Minnesotans, the recent two-week partial shutdown of the federal government may have seemed like little more than a bit of political theater, but for those suffering from discrimination in the workplace, it was a lot more than that. While some government functions, such as air traffic control, continued under the shutdown, many others did not. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was unable to investigate claims of discrimination or to write right-to-sue letters for those who had suffered from workplace discrimination.

Both Minnesota and federal laws prohibit certain kinds of employment discrimination. Some of the provisions under the Minnesota Human Rights Act and the U.S. Civil Rights Act overlap each other, but some do not. Depending upon the type of discrimination, the type of workplace and other matters, some cases may be better handled under federal laws and some under Minnesota laws, while some may involve both.

For cases going through federal laws, typically the worker initiates the legal action by filing a charge of employment discrimination with the EEOC. The agency can then decide to prioritize the investigation if the facts suggest a law has been violated. If the EEOC finds the claim has merit, it can seek to settle the claim and/or issue a right-to-sue letter, giving the worker 90 days in which to decide whether to file a lawsuit.

The process of initiating a claim with the EEOC can be frustrating and difficult, but it can also be crucial to helping workers get the compensation they deserve after they have suffered from unlawful discrimination. It’s good to have the backing of a federal agency when Minnesota workers are standing up for their rights.

Source: NPR, “Federal Shutdown Affected US In Ways Unseen,” Oct. 18, 2013