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January 2020 Newsletter

2020 MLK Day Celebration!

Last Monday, we gathered in St. Paul for the Governor and Lieutenant Governor's MLK Day Celebration to honor and celebrate Dr. King, Black excellence, youth, and intersectionality. We danced to Nur-D, got inspired by Yara Shahidi, presented awards to organizations, and so much more! 

Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero emceed the celebration with Justin Terrell, executive director of the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage. Together, they boldly rooted the audience in what must be done in Minnesota to help build Dr. King's beloved community. 

"We must move past only naming racial disparities and make a commitment to do something," explained Justin Terrell. 

Commissioner Lucero went on to say, "We must make real progress to reduce our state’s racial disparities, root out white supremacy in our policy making, and ensure the civil rights of Minnesotans are upheld." 

Dr. King calls us to action every day. What are you doing to create a world where everyone can lead lives full of dignity and joy?

Staff at the Minnesota Department of Human Rights worked tirelessly to help make the celebration come to life so we are incredibly grateful to everyone who attended, watched online, or staffed a booth!

The event wouldn't have been possible without the support of so many, including 3M, the Governor's Council on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, all the Minnesota state agencies who sponsored the event, the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, Twin Cities PBS, Delta Dental, Thomson Reuters, and Children's Minnesota. 

Check out the pictures below from the celebration and see even more on our Facebook page!


Jamela Pettiford sings the Black National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing


Nur-D Performing (Brought to you by 3M)

Convo with Yara

A conversation with Yara Shahidi, actress and producer of "grown-ish," with Justin Terrell, executive director of the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, and Rebecca Lucero, Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights


Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan present the Civil Rights Champion Award to Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial in Duluth, Minnesota


Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan present the Building the Future Award to TruArtSpeaks Executive Director Tish Jones

Local Jobs and Projects Plan

This month, Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan unveiled their Local Jobs and Projects Plan for the 2020 Legislative Session that begins on February 11. 

In developing their plan, the Governor and Lt. Governor centered equity by recommending that all recipients of state general obligation bonds comply with the equal pay and workforce participation goals in the Minnesota Human Rights Act.  

By extending these equity goals to bonding projects, we can ensure that state investments are used to intentionally undo disparities and inequities that exist in Minnesota. This proposal would create more career opportunities in local communities for people of color and women. 

We look forward to partnering with the Governor and Lt. Governor throughout the Legislative Session to move this proposal forward! 

MDHR Files Amicus Brief


We filed an amicus brief last week in Meagan Abel vs. Abbot Northwestern Hospital and St. Mary’s University MinnesotaRead the full amicus brief here.


The case asks whether courts reviewing harassment cases under the Minnesota Human Rights Act must take into account the total series of actions that create a hostile environment, including discrimination that took place outside the one-year statute of limitations, and also whether unpaid interns are protected by the Act. 

The Case

In this case, Meagan Abel, a St. Mary’s University doctoral student, began her unpaid practicum at Abbot Northwestern Hospital’s clinical psychology program in September 2015. During the program, Abel alleges her supervisor repeatedly sexually and racially harassed her. When Abel reported the harassment multiple times, both the hospital and St. Mary’s University failed to act and protect Abel. Their inaction contributed to a hostile environment. In May 2016, Abel decided to end her practicum early.

Less than one year later in May 2017, Abel filed a charge of discrimination with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. The Fourth Judicial District Court of Hennepin County and the Minnesota Court of Appeals denied Abel’s claim, alleging the supervisor’s harassment and inaction by the hospital and university that Abel experienced in 2015 and early 2016 took place outside of the one-year statute of limitations and thus could not be considered. The District Court also ruled that Abel was not an employee or student during her practicum and was not be protected under the Minnesota Human Rights Act’s employment or education protections.

What We Argue 

In the brief, we argue that it is crucial for the law to recognize that hostile environment claims are comprised of a series of individual discriminatory events. While individuals have a year to submit a charge of discrimination, we highlight that the law permits a court to take into account discriminatory actions, including inaction by an employer, that took place outside the one-year limitation period that contributed to the hostile environment. We also state in the brief that the clock for the statute of limitations period for hostile environments claims must begin on the employee’s last day of work or when an employee resigns.

In addition, we argue that the Supreme Court should interpret the law to ensure that individuals in unpaid internships and students performing unpaid work as a requirement of their education are protected under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

Externship Opportunity

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Our Office of Equity and Inclusion is looking for an extern to help develop products to more efficiently and accurately collect and analyze large datasets.

We anticipate hosting one extern for the 2020 Spring Semester. Work hours and start/end dates are flexible. Ideally, the Compliance Extern would be able to serve 12-20 hours per week.

This is an unpaid position and academic credit is available to students.

For more information and for instructions on how to apply, visit our website

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