Guidelines for Charging Parties

IMPORTANT: There is a Time Limit for Filing

The time limit for filing a charge with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR)is one year from the date of the incident. If you are close to the one-year deadline, contact us immediately at 651.539.1100 (TTY 651.2961283) or Toll Free 800.657.3704. The one year begins running from the date of the alleged discriminatory act.

If you have questions about terminology used on our web site, visit our glossary page.

What the Department Investigates

The Department of Human Rights investigates charges of discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, public services, education, credit, and business contracts. It is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, physical or mental disability, receipt of public assistance, age, or family status. It is also illegal to aid in a violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act or to coerce a person to violate it, obstruct compliance with the Act, or interfere with the department's performance of its duties. The Act also prohibits reprisal or retaliation because a person opposed a practice forbidden by the Act, filed a charge or participated in a matter brought under the Act, or because a person associated with a person or group of persons who are disabled or of a different race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin.

Our Charge Filing Process

An department staff person will review your information to see if you have a basis for filing a charge under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. If a basis is determined, the department will write a formal, written charge and mail it to you. (If the department decides that you have no basis, and therefore does not write a charge for you, the reasons will be explained to you). You must sign the charge before a notary public, who will witness your signature. Then you must return the signed and notarized charge for filing within one year of when the discrimination occurred. After you return the signed charge, the department will determine if there is sufficient evidence to support your claims of illegal discrimination.

What You Will Receive from the Department

After your charge is filed, you will receive another copy of the written charge with a case reference number written on it. Whenever you contact the department you should refer to your case number.

How the Department Investigates a Charge

When we receive your signed charge, the department will collect information necessary to determine if your allegations of discrimination warrant a formal investigation. This does not mean that the department has decided there has been a violation of the law. It simply means that you have made a complaint that the department has authority to investigate. At this stage, the department takes no position and looks at evidence from both sides.

If Your Charge Involves Federal Laws. Your charge may be filed at the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if it meets the criteria for filing under the federal employment discrimination laws enforced by that agency. Under our workshare agreement with EEOC and if your charge is eligible, we will automatically cross file it with EEOC. To do this, your complaint must be within the statute of limitations for the applicable federal law. Federal laws have a shorter period for filing a complaint.

If the Discrimination Happened in Saint Paul or in Minneapolis. You have the option of filing with the St. Paul Human Rights Department or the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights instead of filing with this department.

The Difference between a Charge and a Lawsuit

Filing a charge is not the same as filing a lawsuit. The department does not represent either you or the party against whom you have filed. The department will investigate both sides of the complaint and conduct a neutral investigation. You do not have to have a private attorney during this process. You may hire a private attorney to represent you while your charge is being investigated by the department. If you want to remove your case from the department and file a civil lawsuit in district court, you should consult an attorney.

Keep Good Records

If the department finds that you were illegally discriminated against, you could be awarded damages such as back pay or other losses directly caused by the discrimination. In employment discrimination cases, keep a record of your earnings or your efforts to find work after the discriminatory action.

If Your Address or Telephone Number Changes

You must notify the department in writing if your address or telephone number change. If we cannot contact you or get information from you about your case, your case may be dismissed. We send notices by regular or certified mail, so be sure to open your mail promptly and read everything carefully so you provide an appropriate response. Notify the department in writing if you will be away from home for more than two weeks.

What To Do if Someone "Gets Even" with You for Making Your Complaint

If anyone takes action against you because you contacted a civil rights agency or made a complaint about illegal discrimination against them, you may file a reprisal charge about that action.

What Happens When the Department Conducts an Investigation

After the department has investigated your complaint the commissioner of Human Rights will decide, based on the evidence, whether discrimination probably occurred ("probable cause") or not ("no probable cause").

The Commissioner May Find Evidence of Discrimination

If the commissioner decides there is good reason to believe discrimination occurred, the department will refer the case to the Minnesota State Attorney General's Office for further action.

The commissioner may not find evidence of discrimination. If the commissioner decides there is no good reason to believe discrimination occurred, the department will close the case.