Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Minnesota’s sexual orientation protection is one of the oldest, broadest and most inclusive in the country. In short, sexual orientation discrimination is unlawful in the Minnesota workplace. Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), it is unlawful for an employer to treat lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees differently or take adverse actions against them because of their sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

What is sexual orientation discrimination?

The Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) defines sexual orientation as “having or being perceived as having an emotional, physical or sexual attachment to another person without regard to the sex of that person or having or being perceived as having an orientation for such attachment, or having or being perceived as having a self image or identity not traditionally associated with one's biological maleness or femaleness.”

This definition is broad and inclusive. Not only does the law protect how individuals actually identify themselves, it protects employees who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Thus, a person who is terminated from employment, subjected to harassment or a hostile work environment or suffers some other form of adverse action because the employer “thinks” the person is gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual, is protected. Further, the law prohibits discrimination or hostile treatment on the basis of the employee’s gender identity or gender expression.

How is sexual orientation protected in the work setting?

First, it is illegal for an employer to take adverse action against an employee, even in part, because the employee is or is perceived as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. An adverse action may include:

  • Refusal to hire
  • Failure to promote
  • Demotion
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Denial of benefits (including training, bonuses, vacation and sick time)
  • Decrease in pay and/or work responsibilities
  • Wrongful termination

Second, employees are protected from work environments that are hostile based on sexual orientation. Hostile environment discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation is perhaps the most common form of sexual orientation discrimination in Minnesota workplaces. Single incidents of name-calling or comments negatively reflecting LGBT people will not likely raise to the level of actionable claims of hostile work environment under the law, but they are certainly incidents that, when known to managers, supervisors or human resource personnel, ought to be addressed and stopped by employers. To rise to the level of illegal harassment, the harassment must be repeated and pervasive. 

Contact Our Minnesota Employment Lawyers to Discuss Your Rights
Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP is dedicated to protecting the rights of LGBT employees throughout Minnesota. Our attorneys have successfully litigated and resolved many cases for LGBT clients with great results. If you believe you have suffered discrimination or retaliation because of your sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, we want to hear from you. Contact us at 612-252-3570 or click here for a free initial consultation.