All employees in Minnesota deserve to be treated respectfully and appropriately while at work. Unfortunately, incidents of sexual harassment and whistleblower retaliation do occur, both of which can lead to a hostile work environment and possibly forcing the victim to leave his or her job.
An employee who had previously served in the Minnesota Department of Commerce as a deputy commissioner for insurance has filed a lawsuit against Minnesota on the grounds that he was both the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace and was then retaliated against by his employer for reporting behavior he felt was illegal.
According to the lawsuit, the victim claims that several years ago he was the recipient of unwanted sexual advances by a female employee who was the assistant director of communications for the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which he rebuffed. The lawsuit maintains that the female employee sent him an email saying the victim, who was engaged, should not go through with the marriage. In addition, the female employee cracked jokes about the victim that were of a sexual nature, and also called the victim a "generous lover." The victim contacted the department's general counsel last June to report the female employee's behavior. However, the lawsuit states that nothing was done with regards to the report.
The victim also claims that he was subject to a hostile work environment after he reported alleged data practice violations in the workplace in early 2015. The victim claims the same female employee who committed the acts of sexual harassment suggested that the victim destroy certain internal documents. The victim thought that doing so would violate Minnesota law, so he did not destroy the documents and also told his staff not to do so. He notified the department's general counsel of the incident, but again nothing was done with regards to the incident. Numerous more instances creating a hostile work environment occurred, and although he reported the incidents to other authorities within the department, he was ultimately forced to resign.
These are serious allegations, and it is unfortunate that such incidents get reported with all-too-often regularity. Fortunately, when incidents like this do happen, victims may be able to take legal action and seek damages for the harms they suffered. An employee rights attorney may be able to provide more information about whistleblower protection and illegal retaliation in the workplace.
Source: Star Tribune, "Whistleblower lawsuit accuses Minnesota Commerce Department chief of staff of sexual harassment," Nicole Norfleet, April 11, 2016