Definitions of Terms Used on this Web Site
Affirmative action plan: a set of goal-oriented management policies and procedures to eliminate barriers to employment opportunities for minorities, women, and qualified disabled persons that are not based on specific job requirements. Learn more about affirmative action plans in the Employers section.
Allege: to claim without proof.
Bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ): a characteristic or requirement absolutely necessary for all people to be able to do a particular job.
Charge (Charge of discrimination) - an official document filed by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, notarized and signed by the charging party, describing the alleged discrimination. With few exceptions, a charge must be filed within one-year of the date the alleged discrimination took place.
Charging party: the person filing a charge of discrimination.
Complaint: an allegation of unfair treatment that may or may not fall under MDHR jurisdiction, and may or may not result in a charge. (Bringing a complaint to MDHR does not constitute filing a charge.)
Disability: any condition or characteristic that renders a person a disabled person. A disabled person is any person who (1) has a physical, sensory, or mental impairment which materially limits one or more major life activities; (2) has a record of such an impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.
Intake: the first steps our agency takes to start to the process of filing a charge of discrimination. Not every complaint will fall under our jurisdiction, so not every complaint will be filed.
Jurisdiction (MDHR jurisdiction): whether or not the Minnesota Department of Human Rights has the authority look into a complaint of discrimination. Not every unfair act is illegal under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, and not every class is protected under all areas. View a jurisdiction chart here.
Local commission: an agency of a city, county, or group of counties created pursuant to law, resolution of a county board, city charter, or municipal ordinance for the purpose of dealing with discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation, or familial status.
Marital status: whether a person is single, married, remarried, divorced, separated, or a surviving spouse and, in employment cases, includes protection against discrimination on the basis of the identity, situation, actions, or beliefs of a spouse or former spouse.
Mediation: when a neutral third party assists two or more people in working through their conflicts. The goal of the process is to find solutions, not lay blame.
National origin: the place of birth of a person or of any of the person’s lineal ancestors.
No probable cause: a department determination that there is not enough evidence to support that the alleged discrimination happened.
Protected area: areas where illegal discrimination is prohibited under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. For example: housing, employment, and education.
Protected class: characteristic covered by the Minnesota Human Rights Act. For example: race, national origin, age, and disability.
Protected class status: a person's characteristic within a particular protected class. Examples: race, Asian; sex, female; national origin, Hispanic.
Public accommodation: business, accommodation, refreshment, entertainment, recreation, or transportation facility of any kind, whether licensed or not, whose goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations are extended, offered, sold, or otherwise made available to the public.
Public service: any public facility, department, agency, board or commission, owned, operated or managed by or on behalf of the state of Minnesota, or any subdivision thereof, including any county, city, town, township, or independent district in the state. (Public transit, for example).
Probable cause: a department determination that there is enough evidence to determine that the alleged discrimination probably happened.
Qualified disabled person: (1) with respect to employment, a disabled person who, with reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions required of all applicants for the job in question; and (2) with respect to public services, a person with a disability who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices, removal of architectural, communications, or transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets the essential eligibility requirements for receipt of services and for participation in programs and activities provided by the public service.
Reasonable accommodation: steps which must be taken to accommodate the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified disabled person. This includes, but is not limited to, nor does it necessarily require, making facilities readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities, job restructuring, modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, granting a leave of absence and the provision of aides on a temporary or periodic basis.
Reprisal: when someone retaliates against another for filing a charge of discrimination; or for participating in an investigation of a charge of discrimination; or for associating with someone of a different protected class status.
Respondent: a person or entity accused of discrimination.
Sexual harassment: The Minnesota Human Rights Act defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical contact or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature, when submission to that conduct is made a term or condition of employment, the submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as a factor in an employment decision, or the conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's employment.
Whether unwelcome attention of a sexual nature "substantially interferes" with a person's employment has been considered in hundreds of court decisions. Generally, isolated remarks or occasional profanity or crude language do not rise to the level of sexual harassment even though they are unpleasant. Behavior that is persistent and pervasive may alter the conditions of employment by creating a "hostile environment."
Sexual orientation: according to the Minnesota Human Rights Act, "having or being perceived as having an emotional, physical or sexual attachment to another person without regard to the sex of that person, or having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one's biological maleness or femaleness."
Statute of limitations (SOL): the time span within which legal action may be taken. The statute of limitation for filing a charge of discrimination with MDHR is one year (there are some exceptions to this rule).