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Minn. Dept. Of Human Rights Expects Sexual Harassment Reports To Rise In 2018

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- From lawmakers in Washington to Hollywood movie sets, one Minnesota office is preparing for the wave of sexual harassment complaints to hit close to home.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights has a mission to make the state discrimination free. On the subject of sexual harassment, investigators fully expect they'll be hearing from many more Minnesotans ready to talk about what may be happening to them at work.

An employment attorney for more than 20 years, Kevin Lindsey has spent the last six serving as Minnesota's Commissioner of Human Rights.

mn dept of human rights
(credit: CBS)

"I think this is a watershed moment," he said.

Lindsey's office is tasked with investigating discrimination claims at workplaces across the state. A web video now aims to answer questions as the commissioner expects the sexual harassment category to climb.

"For the department, I think we're just at the beginning of that stage, and for society at large, we're just at the beginning of that stage," Lindsey said.

Lindsey compares this movement to what we witnessed a few years ago with school bullying. Once students and parents felt schools would take their concerns seriously, more came forward.

kevin lindsey
Kevin Lindsey (credit: CBS)

"The department -- when we do investigate -- we approach them as a neutral fact-finder," Lindsey said.

The state Department of Human Rights issues more than 600 discrimination charges a year, with between 30 to 50 sexual harassment charges against employers in the last five years. Lindsey admits it's much more common that kind of complaint won't result in a charge.

"I would say it's not very different than what you'd expect to see in a state and federal court," he said.

It's why he expects proposals to change state laws surrounding sexual harassment this legislative session as case law attempts to play catch up.

"Once it starts to resonate [in] the government, as a society you'll start to see more complaints being filed," Lindsey said.

Under Minnesota's Human Rights law, you have one year to file a complaint of discrimination with the state. Lindsey says the first step to take if you think you're being sexually harassed in the workplace is to go to your Human Resources Department.

You can learn more about the complaints and the department on their website.

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