Are LGBT workers safe in Minnesota?

On Behalf of | Nov 18, 2016 | Employment Discrimination |

The last several weeks have left many minority groups wondering what the future has in store for them.

LGBT folks, in particular, were hopeful that the next administration might work to pass federal employment non-discrimination laws. Now, that seems unlikely to happen.

Instead, the LGBT community will have to look for protection under state law. Thankfully, in Minnesota these laws are strong.

Discriminating against LGBT people is illegal

Minnesota law specifically prohibits discrimination based on a person’s actual or perceived LGBT identity. While the law uses the term “sexual orientation,” it defines that term to include both romantic attraction and gender identity.

There are a few limited exceptions for religious organizations, but these don’t extend to the organizations’ secular activities.

All genders are protected

Even though conflating sexual orientation and gender identity feels a bit antiquated, the law itself is very important. Minnesota was the first state to prohibit employment discrimination against trans people, and it remains one of the few states to have very strong protections.

Importantly, the law protects all gender identities, not just people who identify as male or female. The language of the law prohibits discrimination based on “a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one’s biological maleness or femaleness.”

This is an important protection, since sometimes people who are generally accepting of the “idea” of gays and lesbians still have biases against people who do not conform to traditional gender norms.

The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul take the protections one step further and specifically call out gender identity in their non-discrimination ordinances.

Discrimination can take many forms

Discrimination occurs whenever an employer takes a negative action against an employee or applicant on the basis of their LGBT identity. But, this isn’t just limited to hiring and firing.

For example, discrimination could occur if an employer encourages a butch lesbian to “act more like a lady,” and denies her important opportunities. Or, it could be taking place if a worker is being subjected to gay jokes by his coworkers, and the boss doesn’t make them stop.

The best test is to trust your gut. If something feels wrong, it probably is.

If you’re being mistreated at work, you don’t have to sit back and take it. The law is on your side. Your best first step is always to meet with a lawyer. They can tell you whether you’ve been the victim of an illegal act, and if so, what you can do about it.