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The Minnesota Department of Human Rights was founded in 1967 to protect the civil rights of Minnesotans through the Minnesota Human Rights Act. 

Over time, the civil rights law has changed, making it one of the strongest in the country. 

Below, we'll take you through a history of the Department, changes to the Minnesota Human Rights Act, significant court decisions, and federal civil rights changes.


Governor Walz signed the Take Pride Act and the Preventing Pay Discrimination Act into law. The Take Pride Act helped clarify critical protections for LBTQIA+ Minnesotans and removed outdated and prejudicial language from the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The Preventing Pay Discrimination Act will help end the cycle of unequal pay by prohibiting employers from asking a job applicant about their pay history.

On March 31, 2023, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and the City of Minneapolis reached a court enforceable agreement to strengthen public safety by addressing discriminatory, race-based policing. This was important because it followed months of negotiations, extensive community and officer engagement by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, and a comprehensive investigation. On July 13, 2023, a state judge approved the agreement.

Governor Walz signed the CROWN Act into law. This means that the Minnesota Human Rights Act confirms protection against discrimination based on race-based natural hair texture and styles such as braids, locs, and twists.


Following its investigation, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights finds that the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department engage in a pattern or practice of race discrimination in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.


MDHR launched a civil rights investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department after filing a Commissioner's charge related to the death of George Floyd. 
Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Minnesota schools must allow students to use locker rooms that align with their gender identity. 
Governor Walz signed the Local Jobs and Projects plan into law, extending Workforce Participation Goals and Equal Pay protections to all state-funded bonding projects.
U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an employer cannot fire an employee based on their sexual orientation or gender identity under federal law.
Minnesota Supreme Court confirms the Minnesota Human Rights Act protects unpaid interns. The court also confirmed harassment occurring outside of reporting period can be taken into account in a hostile work environment claim.


The Department moved its St. Paul Main Office from the capitol complex to the Griggs Midway Building.


The Department increased workforce participation goals statewide for women and increased goals for communities of color and Indigenous communities in Greater Minnesota.


The Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) passed, requiring large state contractors to certify they pay women and men equally for equal work. 
Familial status was added as protected class in the area of employment.
Protections added so the Minnesota Departments of Human Rights and Labor and Industry have overlapping oversight of certain pregnancy accommodations.


Governor Dayton signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriages in Minnesota. 
Governor Dayton signed the criminal background check bill, expanding Ban the Box to private employers that is enforced by the Department.  


The Department increased workforce participation goals in the area of construction from 11% to 32% in Hennepin and Ramsey County and 11% to 22% in suburban Twin Cities Metro Counties.  


Ban the Box for public employers went into effect.


The Human Rights Act was re-codified to make it easier to find related provisions.


Commissioner began approving affirmative action plans for departments or agencies who engage in any contract or agreement for goods and services in excess of $100,000 with any business having more than 40 full-time employees.


Marital status was added as a protected class that could not be discriminated against in public accommodations.


Sexual orientation, which includes gender identity in statute, was added as a protected class in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, public service, educational institutions, credit, and business discrimination. 


The legislature added that it was not only an unfair practice to "require" but to "request" a person to furnish information that pertains to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, disability or age. 
The legislature also added that it is an unfair practice to engage in an intentional refusal to do business with, to refuse to contract with, or to discriminate because of a person's race, color, sex, or disability unless alleged refusal or discrimination is because of a legitimate business purpose.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.


In defining "disability," the degree to which a major life activity must be limited by a physical, sensory or mental impairment was changed from "substantially" to "materially."
In real property, discrimination was expanded to include: a refusal to permit, at the expense of the disabled person, reasonable modifications of the premise to allow the disabled person full enjoyment of the premises.
Public accommodations was amended to include that it is an unfair discriminatory practice for a place of public accommodation not to make reasonable accommodations for the "known" physical disability.
Credit discrimination includes sex and marital status, as well as, race, color, creed, religion, disability, and national origin.


Commissioner began approving affirmative action plans for departments or agencies who engage in any contract or agreement for goods and services in excess of $50,000 with any business having more than 20 full-time employees.
If the respondent fails to respond within 30 days after service of the charge, and service was consistent with Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the commissioner, on behalf of the complaining party, may bring an action for default in District Court.


It is an unfair discriminatory practice to discriminate in the extension of personal or commercial credit to a person, or in the requirements for obtaining credit, because of sex or marital status.
When filed, a charge must be served within 10 days and the respondent must submit an answer within 20 days.


Certain employers required to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled persons. 
State and local government agencies required to provide physical and program access to disabled persons. 
Public transit operators required to make transit services accessible to disabled persons by December 1986.


Legislation passed to provide equal pay for dissimilar work of comparable value performed by state employees. The impetus for this legislation was the report issued in 1981 by the Council of the Economic Status of Women.


Contract compliance portion of the Act amended. 
The Department is given responsibility for affirmative action in the construction of the Metrodome.


A provision enacted by the legislature requires the Department to provide respondents with written statements of the alleged facts in support of the Department's finding of probable cause.


Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibited employment discrimination against women workers who are (or intend to become) pregnant, including discrimination in hiring, failure to promote, and wrongful termination.


Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment and education on the basis of age, and clarifies that discrimination because of pregnancy constitutes sex discrimination.


Denial of credit prohibited on the basis marital status.


The Criminal Offenders Rehabilitation Act limiting the ability of state and local government employers and licensing agencies to refuse employment or certain kinds of licensure to persons on the basis of their criminal history.
Case production standards established. 
Management information and some case processing functions computerized. 
Contract compliance function restructured and procedures revised.


Act renamed Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Minnesota Human Rights Act amended to extend prohibitions on sex discrimination to housing, public accommodations, public service, and education. 
Discrimination in employment, housing, and education prohibited on the basis of marital status, disability, or status with regard to public assistance. 
Denial of credit prohibited on the basis of sex.


The Minnesota State Act Against Discrimination amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in employment. 
A provision to require a charging party to post a security bond was repealed. 
It is illegal for an employer to maintain an employment system that unreasonably excludes applicants on the basis of a protected class status.


The federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 passes.


The Minnesota Department of Human Rights established to succeed the State Commission Against Discrimination. Specific procedures for enforcement of Minnesota State Act Against Discrimination established, including investigation, conciliation, public hearings, and appeal.