It is against the law for employers, managers, supervisors and co-workers to sexually harass someone else in their workplace. It is also a violation to punish a victim for reporting sexual harassment. This is known as retaliation, and it is all too common of a practice by Minnesota employers. Instead of rewarding the victim for speaking up by investigating their claims and punishing the offender, many employers choose to try to silence victims instead.
Retaliation can take several forms. The employer can fire the person who reported being harassed. Or it might demote the worker, take away hours, or refuse to grant a rightfully earned raise. Finally, the employer may choose to use threats, insults and other antisocial behavior to create a toxic work environment. Or, more accurately, perpetuate the toxic environment that the harasser already created.
In Minnesota, victims of both sexual harassment and retaliation can take their employers to civil court. That is what a former police officer for the city of Goodhue is doing. The former officer, who is a client of our firm, is accusing Goodhue’s former police chief of sexually harassing her, then driving her from the force when she reported his misconduct.
Our client’s story of harassment, retaliation
The harassment began in 2016. The woman worked as a part-time officer for the Goodhue Police Department when she drew the chief’s attention. He made several strange suggestions, such as asking her to share a hotel room with him when they traveled to a conference. Later, the chief’s behavior escalated to graphic and sexual text messages.
The officer eventually reported the chief’s sexual harassment to her supervisor, who did not investigate or bring the matter to their superiors. Weeks later, the officer was reprimanded for two minor incidents. Soon after, the department told her it had no more hours available for her to work — essentially firing her. The now-fired officer filed a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which led to the chief resigning from the force in 2017.
Why Minnesota’s sexual harassment lawsuit damages can be high
Successful litigation on sexual harassment and retaliation charges can bring substantial damages. This is to encourage victims to stand up for their rights and make it too expensive for employers to tolerate harassment of their workforces.