MDHR History

Department of Human Rights History

The Department of Human Rights has had several locations since it was founded in 1967. Its current home is at the Capitol Complex in the Freeman Building, 625 Robert Street North, Saint Paul, MN 55155. The timeline below takes you from 1967 when the department was established, to 2003 when the Human Rights Act was recodified.

150 Years of Human Rights in Minnesota

sesquicentennial DVDA 52-minute video produced for Minnesota's Sesquicentennial and introduced at our 25th annual Human Rights Day Conference recalls some of the milestones that have marked the struggle for human rights in our state. Notable department historical dates are included in the video, you can read about them here. Check your local library for a copy of the DVD, 150 Years of Human Rights in Minnesota.

Department of Human Rights Timeline


The Department of Human Rights was established to succeed the State Commission Against Discrimination. Specific procedures for enforcement of Minnesota State Act Against Discrimination were established, including investigation, conciliation, public hearings, and appeal.


Minnesota State Act Against Discrimination was amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in employment. A provision to require a charging party to post a security bond was repealed. It is illegal for an employer to maintain an employment system that unreasonably excludes applicants on the basis of a protected class status.


Act renamed Minnesota Human Rights Act (formerly MSAAD, M.S. 363). Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) amended to extend prohibitions on sex discrimination to housing, public accommodations, public service, and education. Discrimination in employment, housing, and education prohibited on the basis of marital status, disability, or status with regard to public assistance. Denial of credit prohibited on the basis of sex (marital status in 1975).


Case production standards established. Management information and some case processing functions computerized. Contract compliance function restructured and procedures revised.


MHRA prohibits discrimination in employment and education on the basis of age, and clarifies that discrimination because of pregnancy constitutes sex discrimination.


A provision enacted by the legislature requires the department to provide respondents with written statements of the alleged facts in support of the department's finding of probable cause.


Contract compliance portion of the Act amended.The department is given responsibility for affirmative action in the construction of the Metrodome.


Comparable worth legislation passed to provide equal pay for dissimilar work of comparable value performed by state employees. The impetus for this legislation was the report issued in 1981 by the Council of the Economic Status of Women.


Certain employers required to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled persons. State and local govemment agencies required to provide physical and program access to disabled persons. Public transit operators required to make transit services accessible to disabled persons by December, 1986.


It is an unfair discriminatory practice to discriminate in the extension of personal or commercial credit to a person, or in the requirements for obtaining credit, because of sex or marital status.

When filed, a charge must be served within 10 days and the respondent must submit an answer within 20 days.


No department or agency of the state shall receive, enter into, or accept any bid or proposal for a contract nor execute any contract for goods, services, or the performance of any functions, or any agreement to transfer funds for any reason in excess of $50,000 with any person having more than 20 full-time employees in Minnesota at any time during the previous 12 months, unless the person has an affirmative action plan for the employment of minority person, women and the disabled that has been approved by the Commissioner of Human Rights.

If the respondent fails to respond within 30 days after service of the charge, and service was consistent with Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the commissioner, on behalf of the complaining party may bring an action for default in District Court pursuant to Rule 55.01 of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedures.


In defining "disability," the degree to which a major life activity must be limited by a physical, sensory or mental impairment was changed from "substantially" to "materially."*

In real property, discrimination was expanded to include: a refusal to permit, at the expense of the disabled person, reasonable modifications of the premise to allow the disabled person full enjoyment of the premises.

Public accommodations was amended to include that it is an unfair discriminatory practice for a place of public accommodation not to make reasonable accommodations for the "known" physical disability.

Credit discrimination includes sex and marital status, as well as, race, color, creed, religion, disability, and national origin.

*The Minnesota Supreme Court held that a physical or mental impairment does not constitute a disability unless its severity is such that it results in a substantial limitation of one or more major life activities. See State by Cooper v. Hennepin County, 441 N.W.2d 106 (Minn. 1989). Because of this ruling, the Human Rights Act was amended and the definition of "disability" was changed from "impairment which substantially limits ..." to "impairment which materially limits one or more major life activities." The new language is intended to lower the threshold for establishing disability as a protected status.


The legislature added that it was not only an unfair practice to "require" but to "request" a person to furnish information that pertains to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, disability or age. The legislature also added that it is an unfair practice to engage in an intentional refusal to do business with, to refuse to contract with, or to discriminate because of a person's race, color, sex, or disability unless alleged refusal or discrimination is because of a legitimate business purpose.


Sexual orientation was added as a protected class in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, public service, educational institutions, credit, and business discrimination. The legislature added that it in no way condoned homosexuality or bisexuality, or an equivalent lifestyle, or authorized persons of the same sex the right to marry.


Marital status was added as a protected class that could not be discriminated against in public accommodations.


No department or agency shall engage in any contract or agreement for goods and services in excess of $100,000 with any business having more than 40 full-time employees on a single working day during the previous 12 months unless the firm or business has an affirmative action plan submitted to the Commissioner of Human Rights for approval.


The Human Rights Act recodified. The Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes recodified Minnesota Statutes Chapter 363, now 363A, in 2003. The purpose of this project was to make the Minnesota Human Rights Act more user friendly by locating related provisions in one place, reducing the need to look in multiple sections for related information.