By Rights... Answers to Your Human Rights Questions

Column 22

In this column:

  • Can Uncle Cut Pregnant Niece's Wages?
  • When Can a Landlord Evict Your "Guests"?
  • Is Boss "Playing Favorites" or Discriminating?

Can Uncle Cut Pregnant Niece's Wages?

I am currently 16 weeks pregnant with my first child. I work for my father and my uncle. My job is physically demanding, requiring a lot of bending over, picking up heavy materials, and driving heavy machinery. In couple of weeks I will be assigned to a different job, doing office work. My uncle said that when this occurs, he is going to cut my wages by one-third. Can he do this?

The Commissioner says:

If you are assigned to a different, less physically demanding job, your employer has a right to adjust your wages to a level that your employer considers appropriate for that job. What your employer can't do, under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, is to treat you less favorably than he would treat another employee in a similar situation, just because you are pregnant. You should be treated in the same manner as your employer would treat an employee who was not pregnant, but sought or required assignment to a less physically demanding job for some other reason. If that employee would not be required to take a pay cut, you shouldn't have to, either. Of course, it's not always easy to determine what is, and is not, a comparable situation. But if you believe you are being treated differently because of your pregnancy, you may want to contact our intake unit at 651-296-5663 or 1-800-657-3704.

When Can a Landlord Evict Your "Guests"?

How long can visitors stay in your apartment without your landlord "evicting" them?

The Commissioner says:

There is no state law that specifies how long a visitor may remain as a guest of the tenant of an apartment or other housing unit. Often, though, a tenant's lease will include a provision specifying how long guests may stay. We suggest you review your lease agreement to determine if there is such a provision. The Department of Human Rights would have jurisdiction in this situation only if a landlord was enforcing his policies unequally because of a characteristic protected by the Human Rights Act (for example, if your landlord was treating members of a certain race or religion differently, with respect to their guests, than members of another race or religion).

Is Boss "Playing Favorites" or Discriminating?

Recently my boss hired a new assistant manager, a young fellow. I am also an assistant manager, but it took me a year and a half to make the same wage he was making in his first month. He is also given more hours than I am. Yet, since I have more experience and know what to do, I am called in frequently to fix problems and answer questions. I am not compensated for taking on more responsibility, or even thanked. Is this legal?

The Commissioner Says:

It is not illegal for a boss to "play favorites" and treat some employees better than others, as long as the reason some get more favorable treatment is not their race, sex, age, or another characteristic protected by the Human Rights Act. That fact that a male is making the same wage that it took you a year and a half to achieve does not in itself prove discrimination -- new employees sometimes get hired for more money than existing employees for a variety of reasons. But if this new employee is getting more money simply because of his gender, that would be illegal. Does your company have a pattern of paying males more than females? Can you cite other examples? If you have reason to believe that gender is the reason for unequal treatment at your place of work, you should contact our intake unit 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.

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