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Minnesota Department of Human Rights Reaches Settlement with a Company that Refused to Address its Sexist Workplace Culture

Settlement requires Bruening Rock to build a workplace free from sexual harassment

12/15/2021 9:11:27 AM

[St. Paul, MN] The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) today announced a settlement agreement with Bruening Rock Products, Inc. after finding the company fostered a culture of degrading women and refused to address sexual harassment. 

“It’s almost 2022 and we’re still talking about employers who refuse to address a sexually toxic culture. It needs to stop. Sexual harassment has no business in the workplace,” said Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero. “This case sends a message to all employers that they have a responsibility to create welcoming workplaces and a legal obligation to actively address and prevent sexual harassment.” 

MDHR’s investigation found three employees sexually harassed a truck driver on three different occasions in 2018. The harassment included unwelcome sexual advances, unwanted touching, and offensive comments. One incident was witnessed by two other employees who did not intervene or report it, indicating such conduct was acceptable in the workplace.  

While Bruening Rock had a sexual harassment policy, MDHR found that it was not enforced. After reporting one incident, the truck driver’s supervisor did not take any action to investigate. The company finally conducted interviews with the three harassers only after the truck driver informed her supervisor of the other incidents. However, the manager conducting the interviews did not take them seriously and reassured one harasser “not to worry about anything.”

MDHR also found the company did not take meaningful action to address multiple incidents of sexual harassment over several years. The company enabled a culture in which inappropriate actions by employees were condoned and therefore engaged in sexual harassment without fear of discipline.  

Bruening Rock’s inaction to address sexual harassment in the workplace violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the state’s civil rights law. 

To help build a safe workplace free from sexual harassment, the settlement requires Bruening Rock to:

  • Create a 24/7 hotline that allows employees to anonymously report unwelcome workplace behavior. 
  • Send the updated sexual harassment policy to all employees that will now include a requirement that supervisors and managers report any violation of the policy and all reports will be investigated. 
  • Provide inclusiveness and bystander training to coach all employees how they can intervene when they observe inappropriate workplace behavior and their duty to report harassment. 
  • Require supervisors, managers, and human resources staff to attend anti-harassment training. 

The agreement also requires the company to pay the former employee for lost wages and damages. 

To ensure compliance with the agreement, MDHR will monitor Bruening Rock for two years. 

Bruening Rock Products Inc. is a rock supply and construction company with a worksite in Zumbrota, MN.  

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is the state's civil rights enforcement agency. If you believe you are the victim of sexual harassment or any other type of discrimination covered under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, call the Discrimination Helpline at 1-833-454-0148 or submit this online form.

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