RIGHTS BLOG: Updates from the Department of Human Rights

Constructing Success for Tomorrow's Youth

Posted on 10/18/13

student gets demo with construction equipment

Student gets a demonstration on using a transit at Construct Tomorrow

At Humboldt High School this week, students walked steel beams, painted cars virtually and operated virtual heavy machinery in the auditorium to explore future careers in construction at the Construct Tomorrow event. Volunteers from the labor unions engaged with students, showed them their craft and opened doors to potential careers. One volunteer mentioned how much he was enjoying watching the students' faces brighten with opportunity. Another mentioned that students' faces lit up at the salaries of construction positions.

In Minneapolis this week, the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority announced it will partner with Summit Academy OIC to serve as an Employment Assistance Firm for the Construction of the People's Stadium. Summit OIC will collaboratively work with 17 community partners to recruit, hire and train minorities, women and veterans.

walking an I-beam

Student walks an I-beam

With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day for the balance of this decade, these are not simply feel good stories about a student career fair or employment training programs. It is the beginning of a shift. Minnesota's workforce is changing and becoming more youthful and diverse. Demographic estimates show that by 2040, people of color will represent nearly 45 percent of the Twin Cities population.

While these collaborations are providing a diverse workforce for today, they are investing in the state's workforce and building a sustainable world-class city with an adequate skilled workforce to sustain economic growth. At the same time, these collaborations are enabling individuals from disadvantaged communities to become self-sufficient. They are providing pathways to careers.

State agencies and businesses can prepare for this future by creating and implementing best human resource practices that maximize identifying and retaining a highly-skilled diverse labor force. Businesses that realize the value of a diverse and skilled labor force will be better prepared for Minnesota's changing demographics.

Read more about the state's diversity and inclusion efforts and how the state is working toward a state of inclusion in the MDHR's biennium report (Page 9 – 15).

See more photos of the Construct Tomorrow event on our Facebook!

Economic Development is the Solution, Not More Police Patrols

Posted on 10/9/2013

A recent article from a prominent local columnist suggested that the way to deal with youth aimlessness on the East-Side of St. Paul was to increase the presence of the St. Paul Police in the community.

The Pioneer Press columnist noted that, "Feral youth are lazy and stupid. . . We are not dealing with organized criminals who need to be criminals even when the snow and cold are upon us. We are dealing with shiftless and aimless louts who get brave when they are warm."

The characterization of young people as feral creatures seems as misplaced as the suggestion that all that is needed is more law enforcement to create a safer, more successful community.

Young people who are arrested or are convicted of a misdemeanor face substantial obstacles to being able to secure gainful employment throughout their entire life, which hurts them but also makes the community less safe in the long run. The Minnesota Legislature, concerned about the negative impact that a youthful indiscretion can have on the ability of a person to become employed, recently passed legislation limiting the ability of employers to inquire into criminal history on employment applications.

What young people need are more opportunities for summer employment. The economic hardship realized by today's youth is far greater than for generations in the past, as more underemployed adults are taking positions that would have traditionally been provided to teenagers. Teen unemployment in Minnesota has been in double digits since 2003 and averaged 19.1 percent during 2012. Young people of color faced even more discouraging job prospects. For Minnesota's Hispanic teens the unemployment rate was 24.2 percent during 2012, and for black teens it was 32.2 percent.

Fortunately, leaders in the Twin Cities private and public sector are stepping up to provide more summer employment opportunities. Several of the cabinet level administrative agencies within the Dayton Administration have active summer intern programs. Seeking additional summer intern opportunities, several administrative agencies, including the Department of Human Rights, over the past two summers have hired summer interns through the Minneapolis STEP-UP program.

As our economy continues to improve, public and private sector leaders need to continue down the path of hiring more summer interns to start more youth down the path to gainful employment that will strengthen our communities and make all of us safer.

We all can agree that idle hands and minds among young people are not a good thing.

Now let us all agree that what we need is more young people with summer job experience on their resumes. When young people see a future for themselves, we create productive citizens, future leaders, stronger communities and a safer society.

MDHR Offers Employers, Employees Guidance on Minnesota's Same-Sex Marriage Law

Posted on 10/4/2013

wedding ringsIn Minnesota, a marriage is a marriage now with limited exceptions for religious institutions and possible federal preemption.

With this in mind, employers must provide equal benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex married employees in order to comply with the requirements of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

On August 1, 2013, Minnesota made marriage legal for same-sex couples, joining a growing number of states and countries that allow same-sex couples to marry. For Minnesota employers and employees in regards to employment law, a marriage is now a marriage. Differential benefits between same-sex married couples and opposite-sex married couples would likely run afoul of state anti-discrimination laws.

Due to the evolving federal legal situation, certain areas of the law, such as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), can add an additional layer of complexity.

Cross border issues involving neighboring states with different marriage laws create additional complexity as well. MDHR's guidance information seeks to help employers and employees better understand these issues and what needs to be done to comply with Minnesota law. This guidance does not replace the need for legal counsel.

Visit the Employer's section of our web site for answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) about cross border issues, federal employee benefit laws, state and federal tax issues and links to additional information about Minnesota's same-sex marriage law.