Most Minnesotans probably know that state and federal laws generally prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of race or several other factors. They might not know that marital status can also be a source of unlawful employment discrimination.
Many people have enjoyable work experiences; however, sometimes, that isn't the case. Minneapolis workers may be interested to know that in late November of this year, an Iowa woman who once worked as a corrections officer filed a federal employment discrimination suit against her county and its jail administrator and sheriff. The former employee claims she was made to work in a hostile work environment and was a victim of workplace retaliation, gender discrimination and wrongful termination in August 2011.
A former assistant teacher has filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination, alleging that she was terminated due to a complaint she filed against a teacher. The former assistant teacher accused another staff member of abusing children and zoning out during school hours. The former assistant teacher alleged that the staff member took pills during school hours and required the assistant teachers to teach. The former assistant teacher accused the school authorities of employment discrimination.
There are different types of discrimination. Some are common and some aren't. Under the category of employment discrimination, there is a type of discrimination called national-origin and race discrimination. There was a recent case that occurred at St. Cloud University, here in Minnesota, that has attracted attention. A Nigerian professor at the university, who is also a member of the Igbo tribe in Nigeria, believes that his salary is lower than that of other Nigerians at the university who are members of the Yoruba tribe. One of the members of the university's hiring committee is also a member of the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria. It is believed that the Nigerian hiring committee member may have been instrumental in helping his fellow tribe members to be hired at the university at a higher salary.
A former employee of the publishing company Penguin Group has filed a legal complaint against the publisher for wrongful discharge due to age discrimination. The complaint should remind Minnesotans that age discrimination is a real concern and that it may be prevalent in even in the most well-known and well-respected companies. It should also inject employees with the courage to speak out against such discrimination.
A boat manufacturing company will pay out a settlement of $295,000 for discriminating against female job applicants who were rejected from job openings at its plant in northwestern Minnesota. The employment discrimination suit filed in 2011 claimed that the company rejected these women who applied for entry-level jobs with the manufacturer. Although the company denied the allegations, its parent company has agreed to pay back wages and interest to the original applicants.
The Norfolk Southern Railway Co. was ordered to pay $932,070.46 in damages, including more than $387,000 in punitive damages and attorney's fees, to two whistleblowers. Following an investigation, OSHA determined that Norfolk Southern violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act's whistleblower provisions when it awarded the employees these damages. The investigations were completed by the US Department of Labor's Occupational and Safety and Health Administration's Chicago office, which covers Region 5 including Minnesota.
An Army veteran, who served two tours in Iraq, has filed a lawsuit against the city of Rochester and the Rochester Police Civil Service Commission alleging disability discrimination. The suit states that the police department violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act when he was fired because of his impaired hearing and speech.
Employees in Minnesota have protection under both state and federal law when they notify authorities that their employer is conducting practices that violate a state or federal law. Under Minnesota state law an employer cannot fire, discipline, threaten, discriminate against or penalize regarding wages or benefits a whistleblower employee who reports a violation of state or federal law in good faith to an employer, government body or law enforcement. Employers who violate this law may be forced to compensate the employee.
Even as the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 nears in a few years, it is clear that employees facing race and employment discrimination still must fight to protect their rights and prevent future harm. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission continues to settle cases dealing with discrimination, including one in 2011 with a Minnesota roofing company that agreed to pay a settlement and revise its procedures for handling discrimination complaints.