Sexual Harassment Legislation Passes to House Floor

The bill alters the “severe or pervasive” standard in sexual harassment cases.
(Published Feb 11, 2019)

HF 10 (Rep. Kelly Moller, DFL-Shoreview), a bill that would eliminate the “severe or pervasive” standard in sexual harassment cases, was heard by the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division on Feb. 7 and passed to the House floor.

The bill would amend the Human Rights Act and change what constitutes sexual harassment in state law. It would give judges more discretion to move forward with cases that previously may not have met the “severe or pervasive” standard that was set by a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986).

Advocates for the change argued that the current standard is so high that it prevents people from getting their day in court. Opponents voiced concern that eliminating the standard would mean that current case law would no longer inform employers, including cities, what sexual harassment is. Instead, the courts would have to redetermine the definition by hearing new cases unless the legislation more narrowly defines sexual harassment.

HF 31, authored by Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein (DFL-New Brighton) is a clone bill. There are currently no Senate companions to either bill.

This language was included in the 2018 omnibus public safety finance and policy bill (HF 2856, Rep. Brian Johnson (R-Cambridge)), but did not advance in the Senate.

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