Our employment attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of LGBTQ employees and ridding the workplace of unlawful discrimination and harassment. Minnesota’s sexual orientation law is one of the oldest, broadest and most inclusive in the country. In short, sexual orientation discrimination is unlawful in the Minnesota workplace.

Protection Against LGBTQ Discrimination

Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), it is unlawful for an employer to treat lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) employees differently or take adverse actions against them because of their sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

This statute is broad and inclusive. Not only does the law protect how employees actually identify themselves, it protects employees who are perceived to be LGBTQ. Thus, a person who is terminated from employment, subjected to harassment or a hostile work environment or suffers some other form of adverse action because the employer “thinks” the person is gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual, is protected.

Further, the law prohibits discrimination or hostile treatment on the basis of the employee’s gender identity or gender expression—meaning a “self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one’s biological maleness or femaleness.”

Forms of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the Workplace

First, it is illegal for an employer to take adverse action against an employee, even in part, because the employee is or is perceived as LGBTQ. An adverse action may include:

  • Refusal to hire
  • Failure to promote
  • Demotion
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Denial of benefits (including training, bonuses, vacation and sick time)
  • Decrease in pay and/or work responsibilities
  • Wrongful termination

Second, employees are protected from work environments that are hostile based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Hostile environment discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation is perhaps the most common form of sexual orientation discrimination in Minnesota workplaces.

This can include repeated insults, disparaging comments, threats, or bullying based on actual or perceived orientation. Single incidents of name-calling or comments negatively reflecting LGBTQ people will not likely raise to the level of actionable claims of hostile work environment under the law, but they are certainly incidents that, when known to managers, supervisors or human resource personnel, ought to be addressed and stopped by employers. To rise to the level of illegal harassment, the harassment must be repeated and pervasive. 


The attorneys at Wanta Thome PLC have successfully litigated and resolved many cases for LGBTQ clients with great results. If you believe you have suffered discrimination, harassment or retaliation because of your sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation or gender identity, we want to hear from you. Contact us for a free initial consultation.

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