By Rights... Answers to Your Human Rights Questions

Column 11

In this column:

  • Overbearing Manager Too Much to Bear
  • Tenant Feels "Powerless" in Problem Apartment
  • Time Limits for Filing a Discrimination Charge

Overbearing Manager Too Much to Bear

I feel like I am being harassed at work. I am forced to sit in my manager's office for hours each day and listen to her stories about her boyfriend, their relationship and his family. She gets upset if I am not available. My manager also gossips quite a bit about others in the office. I am not interested in this talk either. I am afraid to tell her I am not interested as she is very overbearing and demanding. Also, I need a good reference from her to get a new job and I am afraid that if I let her know I want to work, rather than discuss personal business, she will not give me a good reference. What can I do?

The Commissioner says:

Not everything that is unfair or inappropriate is against the law, and the law we enforce, the state Human Rights Act, does not prohibit managers from being overbearing and demanding, or from boring and annoying their employees with stories about their personal lives. What you call "harassment" is unfortunate, but from your description, your boss's conduct does not appear to be illegal. However, sexual harassment is illegal under the Act, and if her stories about her relationship with her boyfriend contain intimate sexual details that have the effect of creating a hostile environment that substantially interferes with your employment -- or if your boss's stories should come to fit that description in the future -- you should contact us again to discuss filing a charge. Otherwise, your best choice may be to deal with the situation as diplomatically as possible, while continuing your search for a new job.

Tenant Feels "Powerless" in Problem Apartment

I have lived in my apartment for four months. When I moved in, my stove didn't work properly. I notified the caretaker but the problem was not fixed and I still can't use my stove. Also, the power in my apartment is not wired correctly -- I can't have my microwave and my toaster on at the same time without the power cutting out. When the power goes out my computer makes a clunk and does not work very well anymore. I also have an ant problem; they sprayed and the ants are still here. I do not know what my rights are -- all I want is to get out of my lease. Please help.

The Commissioner says:

If you believe that repairs aren't being made because of your race, national origin, sex, or another personal characteristic protected by the Minnesota Human Rights Act, you should contact our Intake unit at 651-296-5663 or 1-800-657-3704. If, for example, tenants of another race or national origin are being treated better by your landlord, we'd like to know about that. But if your landlord isn't discriminating -- he or she just doesn't fix anything promptly for anybody -- then there is no violation of the law we enforce, the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

There are other laws and ordinances that require a landlord to keep his properties in reasonable repair, and you may well be able to get your landlord to correct problems in your unit, or you may have other remedies. But those areas are outside our jurisdiction or expertise. We suggest you contact the Minnesota Tenants Union at 612-871-7485, or the office of the city of Minneapolis that handles housing complaints, at 612-673-5858.

Time Limits for Filing a Discrimination Charge

I feel that I was treated unfairly by my former employer and have reason to believe that it was discrimination. This happened in 2002 and 2003 and resulted in my leaving the position. My question is: is it too late to file a complaint or have someone listen to my story?

The Commissioner says:

Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, a person seeking to file a charge of discrimination must do so within one year of the time the discrimination took place. So you cannot file a charge over events that happened more than a year ago -- though such events could be relevant to an investigation, if there were also more recent incidents of discrimination. There are a few limited circumstances in which the one-year time limit can be "tolled" (or extended). If you believe you may be within the one-year time deadline, you should contact our Intake unit as soon as possible at 651-296-5663 or 1-800-657-3704.

The answers in these columns are not intended as legal advice. The Department of Human Rights does not make a judgment on any case without carefully examining all the facts.

Column Archive

View a complete index of the Commissioner's Columns in the Column Archive.

Questions

Do you have a human rights question for the Commissioner?

Submit your question here.