Federal and Minnesota Laws Prohibiting Discrimination


Federal: Civil Rights Act

Under Title VII of the U. S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that employers are prohibited from refusing to hire, discharge, or to treat employees differently because of their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Title VII applies to employers “who have fifteen (15) or more employees for each working day and each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.” 42 U.S.C. §2000e(b). In addition, Title VII prohibits discrimination because of an individual’s association with another of a particular race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

Federal: Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”)

In 2008, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”) expanded the Civil Rights Act to protect employees on the basis of “genetic information” from discrimination from their employer. Under GINA, genetic information is defined as:

  • An individual’s genetic tests (including genetic tests done as part of a research study);
  • genetic tests of the individual’s family members (defined as dependents and up to and including fourth degree relatives);
  • the manifestation of a disease or disorder and family members (family history);
  • any requests for, or receipt of, genetic services for participation in clinical research that includes genetic services (genetic testing, counseling, or education) the fine individual or family member;
  • genetic information does not include information about the sex or age of an individual.

Federal: The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”)

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) prohibits employment discrimination against any employee at least 40 years of age. The ADEA is quite broad and prohibits discrimination in hiring, promotions, wages, or termination of employment and layoffs; statements of specifications in job notices or advertisements of age preferences and limitations; denial of benefits to older employees; and most mandatory retirement policies.

Federal: The Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prevents discrimination by an employer because of physical or mental disability. The rehabilitation act applies to programs conducted by federal agencies, and programs receiving federal financial assistance, and federal employment, and in employment practices of federal contractors.

Federal: Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prevents discrimination based on a person’s disability and covers both mental and physical medical conditions. Further, the condition does not need to be severe permanence to qualify under the Act. Some of the conditions that could easily be protected under the Act are deafness, blindness, and intellectual disability, partially or completely missing limbs or mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair, cancer, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, HIV, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia. The Act applies to employers of 15 or more employees.

Federal: The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act protect service member’s reemployment after returning from a period of service in the uniformed services. This includes service members in the reserves or National Guard and further prohibits an employer to discriminate based on military service or obligation.

Minnesota’s Human Rights Act is Minnesota’s comprehensive law that prevents discrimination based on your race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, familial status, disability, public assistance, age, sexual orientation, local human rights commission activity. Minnesota Human Rights Act protects discrimination of these classes in the areas of business, credit, education, employment, housing, public accommodations, and public services. In general, Minnesota’s Human Rights Act is more comprehensive than its federal counterpart.

An employer cannot require or request applicants before hiring information regarding a protected characteristic. This includes request for information on an application or during an interview. However this does not prevent an employer from requesting information to ensure that the potential employee can perform the required job duties, such as requesting a physical examinationAlso, if a potential employee consents an employer can obtain medical information for various legitimate business reasons such as to assess health insurance eligibility or compliance with state drug testing law. Of course, any medical information collected must be kept confidential.

In addition to not being able to discriminate based on any of the protected classes, the employer with 15 or more employees has to provide reasonable accommodation for an employee’s or potential employees known disability. The exception to this is however, if the employer shows that an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the business. Undue hardship considers a number of factors, including the size of the business and type of operation of the business. Along with workforce size and composition, the nature of the cost of the accommodation, a good faith efforts to find less restrictive or less expensive alternatives with the employee.

Minnesota’s Human Rights Act also extends to protect women who are pregnant or have pregnancy related disabilities. The Act prohibits an employer treating a pregnant woman differently from other persons who are not affected. The employer must also make a reasonable accommodation for pregnancy related disabilities.

Businesses cannot discriminate based on race, color, creed, religion, disability, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, or public assistance when deciding whether to extend personal or commercial credit under the Act.

If an employee uses alcoholic beverages or tobacco lawfully during nonwork hours, then an employer cannot retaliate against that employee or prospective employee. Minn. Stat. § 181.938. There are exceptions to this however, if there are occupational requirements that prohibit use of those chemicals.

What is not prohibited under Minnesota’s Human Rights Act is information collected for an affirmative action program. Collection of information based on somebody’s tax or race to facilitate an affirmative action program is allowed, but any information collected must be stored away from a job application and cannot be used in determining whether an employee should be hired.

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