When an employee has to choose between paying rent and being able to purchase food, and being sexually harassed and stalked in the workplace, there is a definite problem that employers need to address. Sexual harassment, hostile work environments and retaliatory behavior has been highlighted many times across the country in the wake of the #MeToo movement and Minnesota is also taking steps to address pervasive unacceptable behavior in the workplace.
A House Committee recently unanimously voted to go ahead with a bill strengthening sexual harassment laws in the workplace. Where previously the Minnesota had a high standard of "severe and pervasive" sexual harassment, the law aims to give more credibility to employees who are reporting hostile work or offensive environments.
The lawmakers heard horror stories, such as the one mentioned above by a server at a restaurant, who claimed customers touched and stalked her, but her managers refused to take any action. She sued the company and lost because her case did not fall within the standard. However, the change is inspiring concerns among business owners, who claim it will increase the amount of litigation because of the language being proposed. Businesses contend that litigation could drive up insurance costs or force them into bankruptcy.
As the bill moves forward, many people, employees and employers alike may be keeping their eyes on it. Creating an environment free from discrimination and sexual harassment is essential to encourage productivity and creativity in the workplace and to make employees feel safe and valued. If someone has been subjected to sexual harassment, they should consider consulting an experienced attorney to discuss their legal options.