Federal and state rights vary by issue, but most are well known and almost universally recognized in the United States. If your rights have been violated, you often must file a claim within six months or one year of the date of discrimination. The time period in which you may bring a claim, known as a "statute of limitations," is a particularly complicated question in some civil rights matters. 

Before you can sue for discrimination in court, you may have to first file a complaint with state and federal agencies. If you are discriminated against in your work place, you would file with the EEOC (“Equal Employment Opportunity Commission”) for federal claims and the MDHR ("Minnesota Department of Human Rights") for state claims. If you are discriminated against in another area, you should file a state claim with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. A federal claim should be filed with the appropriate federal agency.

Under Minnesota state law, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone because of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, status with regard to public assistance, disability or age. Under federal law, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their race, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, disability or age. Generally, you cannot be discriminated against based on the above-listed factors in employment, housing, credit, public services, public accommodations, education, business, or regarding any other government benefits.

Sexual harassment is a commonly encountered workplace form of sex discrimination and it is illegal under both federal and state law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Sexual harassment occurs when one employee makes the following to another employee against his or her wishes: 1. continued, unwelcome sexual advances; 2. requests for sexual favors; or 3. other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment has also been defined as occurring “when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You can be the victim of sexual harassment even if you are being harassed by a member of the same sex. You can also be the victim of sexual harassment if you are being harassed by anyone connected to your work place, even if they are not your supervisor or co-worker. You may also be a victim of sexual harassment even if the offending behavior is not directed at you. You may be a victim of sexual harassment if you are in the same environment as the intended victim or learn about the harassment and are affected by the harassment. You may also be a victim even if you cannot show that your employment has been negatively affected. You may not necessarily need to show that the harassment has resulted in a transfer, firing, or decrease in your salary. Sexual harassment is a sensitive issue and a complex area of law. You should dicuss the details of your particular situation with an attorney at WLG to determine how to proceed.

For employees, if you are being harassed, first and foremost you should tell the person that is sexually harassing you to stop. You should also immediatley report it to a superior in your company. Employers have a responsibility to take all claims seriously and investigate them thoroughly, but they can only address issues of which they are aware. Learn whether your company has a policy against sexual harassment and what system is used to deal with these types of complaints. Generally, this information is located in your employee handbook. If this information is available to you, follow the steps listed. Your company should investigate any claims immediately. You should also document each and every incident of harassment. Keep a log of all offending behavior, this will be helpful in pursuing a claim later, if need be. Also keep track of any actions you take within your company to stop or investigate the harassment. If you contact a supervisor about the harassment, write down the date and summarize the discussion you had with this supervisor. If you still want to sue your company or harasser, you must first get permission to sue from a government agency. You should file a complaint with the federal government's EEOC ("Equal Employment Opportunity Commission") and/or corresponding state agency, which is the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in Minnesota. These agencies will review your claims and may either decide to sue your company or harasser on your behalf or issue you a “right-to-sue” letter that allows you to sue the offending party with your own lawyer.

For employers, if an employee reports sexual harassment, or any other form of discrimination, you must take it seriously. Investigate the matter thoroughly and using only individuals removed from the conduct or matters at issue. Document all efforts. Initiate appropriate discipline where warranted and document the results of the investigation. Utilize progressive discipline as appropriate. Most importantly, have a policy in place and follow it.