By Rights... Answers to Your Human Rights Questions

Column 17

In this column:

  • Co-worker "Goes Ballistic"
  • Hotel Worker Sexually Harassed by Guest
  • Green Card Required to File Discrimination Claim?

Co-worker "Goes Ballistic"

I have a co-worker who will periodically "go ballistic" at work. She'll throw things, use vulgar language toward other employees, and shout so loud she can be heard outside of the brick building we work in. It's getting to the point where we are all afraid to even ask her a question, for fear she will go off again! Is this not considered creating a hostile environment? We've complained to management, but nothing has been done. What can we do?

The Commissioner says:

The fact that your co-worker has an explosive temper and your employer is unwilling to put a stop to her outbursts is unfortunate but does not necessarily amount to a violation of the Human Rights Act or any other law. You mention her "vulgar" language. In some cases, vulgar language could constitute sexual harassment, but we would need to know more about what was said, and under what circumstances, to know if this behavior could be considered "verbal conduct or communication of a sexual nature" -- part of the definition of sexual harassment. Of course, if her tantrums include throwing things in the direction of other employees, that could constitute assault, which is a crime. But if she is merely abusive and your employer unwilling to intervene, your only choice may be to find a job at an organization that does not tolerate such disrespectful behavior.

Hotel Worker Sexually Harassed by Guest

I work in a hotel and we had a guest who was rude and drunk. He approached me and asked if I would go to his room and have sex with him for $3,000 -- he asked me the same thing several times. I told him he was making me feel uncomfortable and I asked him to stop. Then, after I had served him three drinks, he refused to tip me and said the only way I would get any money from him was if I went to his room and have sex with him. I talked with four other female employees, whom he also asked to sleep with him for money. We had him removed from the hotel, never to return. I would like to go further and sue, or get him arrested. But I was told that sexual harassment is only between employees, or involving relationships with authority figures. What are my rights? What can I do to make this man pay for this and make sure that he can't do this to other girls?

The Commissioner says:

When an employer knows or should have known that an employee is being sexually harassed, the employer has a duty to take timely and appropriate action to stop the harassment. This is true whether the harasser is another employee, a supervisor, or a customer of the employer's business. If an employer fails to take action, there is a potential violation of the Human Rights Act and the employee can file a charge of discrimination. In this case, the harasser was removed from the hotel; thus, it appears that your employer acted appropriately, and you would not be able to file a charge against your employer. However, it is a crime (under Minnesota Statute 609.324) to hire or attempt to hire someone to engage in prostitution. You and the four other employees who were propositioned could contact the police department in the city in which this activity occurred and report the incident. You would need to consult an attorney regarding a possible civil action; the Department of Human Rights cannot give legal advice.

Green Card Required to File Discrimination Claim?

Can a person who is not a U.S. citizen bring a claim under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, as long as they have a green card?

The Commissioner says:

If one has experienced discrimination in Minnesota, it is not necessary to be a U.S. citizen, or to have a green card, in order to file a charge. The Minnesota Human Rights Act protects everyone in Minnesota from illegal discrimination, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status.

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.

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