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Sexual Harassment Bill Unanimously Approved By Minnesota House Committee

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- A Minnesota House committee voted unanimously to move ahead with a bill strengthening sexual harassment laws in the work place, but some business groups are worried the law may go too far.

Minnesota lawmakers heard sexual harassment horror stories from a server at a Golden Valley Perkins restaurant, who asked WCCO not to use her full name. She said she endured a year of touching and stalking from customers, and her managers refused to stop it.

"The managers routinely made me choose between being able to pay for rent and food, and being sexually harassed and stalked," Ami said.

She sued the company but lost the case, which didn't fit Minnesota's high standard for "severe and pervasive" sexual harassment. Now one lawmaker is trying to change that.

"This bill is necessary to insure that workers are safe in their workplaces," Rep. Kelly Moller (DFL) said. "As the #MeToo movement has highlighted, we need to change workplace behavior."

The House is debating a sexual harassment bill giving more credibility to employees who report an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. Business groups say no one supports harassment, but changing the reporting standard could cause a blizzard of lawsuits.

"We are not here to say the sky is falling. We are here to say we have tremendous concerns about the language that is being proposed, because it will increase the amount of litigation. There is just no question about that," Melissa Raphan, from the Minnesota Employment law Council, said.

Businesses say the bill could drive up insurance costs, or force them into bankruptcy. Despite strong support in the Democratic House, its future in the Republican-controlled Senate is uncertain.

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