Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

FAQ about the MDHR and Filing a Complaint

Other FAQ about discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act can be found in the Your Rights section in Practices Prohibited. FAQ about contract compliance are listed in the Employers section. If you have questions about terminology used on our web site, visit our glossary page.

General

What is the Minnesota Department of Human Rights?

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) is a neutral state agency that investigates charges of illegal discrimination, ensures that businesses seeking state contracts are in compliance with equal opportunity requirements, and strives to eliminate discrimination by educating Minnesotans about their rights and responsibilities under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA).

Complaint Process

What is the statute of limitation (SOL) for filing a charge?

The statute of limitation for filing a charge under the Minnesota Human Rights Act is one year from the date of the incident. Tolling for the one year limit is suspended during alternative dispute resolution.

Do I need an attorney to file a charge with the department?

You do not need to have an attorney, however you may choose to hire an attorney at any time during the process.

What happens when I call the department to start a complaint?

You will be able to speak with a department staff person, who can start the process for you.

What is the cost of filing a charge?

There is no cost to the charging party (the person filing the charge).

Do I need to make an appointment to see an enforcement officer?

No, we accept walk-ins from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Monday through Friday. We do most of our initial work over the phone so a person does not have to make a trip to our offices. The phone line for talking to our staff about discrimination complaints is open from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday.

How does your complaint process work?

The basic steps in the department's complaint process are as follows:

Intake

  1. Charging party discusses his or her situation with an MDHR enforcement officer or his or her attorney. NOTE: there is a one year time limit for filing a charge with the MDHR.
  2. If the complaint is covered by the Minnesota Human Rights Act the MDHR files a charge. (If the complaint is not covered, there is no filing.)
  3. The charge is sent to the respondent.
  4. The parties may be contacted by the department to schedule voluntary mediation. (More information about our mediation program is available here.) If there is no settlement through the mediation process, the charge proceeds to investigation.

Investigation & Determination

  1. MDHR conducts a neutral investigation of the charge(s).
  2. MDHR makes a determination on the charge: Probable Cause or No Probable Cause. Either party has the option of appealing a determination.

View the MDHR Complaint Handling Process Chart here.

How long does the process take?

The department has one year to make a determination. The one-year time limit can be suspended if parties are participating in alternative dispute resolution sanctioned by the commissioner.

What should I do next?

MDHR is a neutral fact-finding agency. No advice can be given as to what you should do next.

I received an invitation to participate in mediation. Am I required to participate in this process?

No, mediation is voluntary. There is no cost to either party for the mediation. If there is no settlement through mediation, the charge of discrimination is referred to investigation and processed like any other charge filed with the department.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a confidential dispute resolution process in which a trained neutral mediator assists the charging party and respondent to resolve claims of discrimination without assigning fault or blame to either party. All information shared during a mediation session is regarded as confidential and cannot be revealed to anyone outside the mediation session including the department. You can find more information about our mediation program here.

What happens if the department makes a probable cause finding?

The department will attempt to settle the matter through conciliation. If the parties are not able to agree on a settlement, the Attorney General's Office may argue the case in front of an administrative law judge.

I received a dismissal letter from the Commissioner. I am not happy with the outcome of my case. What can I do?

You may appeal a No Probable Cause determination or request reconsideration of a dismissal decision. If you decide to appeal, you must do so in writing within ten (10) calendar days of receiving a notice of No Probable Cause or dismissal from our agency.

EEOC Cross-filing

I received an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) notification of cross filing letter. What does this letter mean?

The state and federal agencies can accept charges for each other when both have jurisdiction. A charge filed with the state Human Rights Department or with EEOC will be "cross-filed" with the other, so that only one agency investigates the claim.

Your Rights and the MN Human Rights Act

It does not sound like you can help me because I am not a member of a protected class. Is that true?

No, everyone has a race, an age, a sex, etc. If a protected class is the basis for differential treatment, and it is covered in the MHRA, a person can file a charge with the department. You do not have to be a "certain race" or a "certain sex" in order to file a charge.

How can places like movie theaters charge different prices based on a person's age?

The legislature did not include age as a protected class in the area of public accommodations. This is why movie theaters can charge different prices based on age, and restaurants can have "senior menus."

How old do I have to be to file a charge of age discrimination in employment?

Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, a person is covered under age discrimination in employment if they are of the age of majority (18). Under federal law (ADEA), a person must be at least 40 years old to file a charge of age discrimination in employment.

Can I be terminated if I file an employment discrimination charge against my employer?

If an employer terminates you without a legitimate reason after you file a charge of discrimination, it may be reprisal, which can be the subject of a separate charge. The Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibits adverse treatment of a person as retaliation for filing a charge.