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May 15, 2018
Legislators Consider Changes to Sexual Harassment Laws and Abolishing Non-Competes

Both the Minnesota state legislature and U.S. Congress are considering employment-law bills that could impact Minnesota employers.

On April 23, 2018, Minnesota House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin introduced a bill (H.F. 4459/S.F. 4031) amending the Minnesota Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) to change the legal standard for sexual harassment. This bill would eliminate the “severe or pervasive” standard for sexual harassment claims, but does not provide a replacement for the current standard. In its current state, the bill would lower the bar for employees to bring claims of sexual harassment against employers. The bill has wide bipartisan support and 34 cosponsors. A companion bill in the Senate has stalled due to procedural issues and concerns from the business community. Despite the troubles with the Senate’s bill, the House bill continues to move forward with its strong bipartisan support.

At the federal level, legislators are seeking to abolish non-compete agreements. Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced legislation (S.2782) on April 26, 2018, entitled the “Workforce Mobility Act (“WMA”), that would abolish non-compete covenants nationwide. Members of the House of Representatives introduced similar legislation on April 28, 2018 as part of a larger legislative package (H.R. 5631). The WMA would also empower the Department of Labor to enforce the ban through fines on employers who either fail to notify employees that non-compete agreements are illegal or who continue requiring employees to sign covenants not to compete. Under Minnesota law, non-compete agreements are enforceable but are highly scrutinized and sometimes invalidated. In 2013, the Minnesota legislature considered similar legislation to void non-compete agreements, but the bill died out. Whether or not the current federal legislation passes, it is a harbinger of continued legislative activity around non-compete agreements and employers should consider these issues when drafting and using such agreements.

If you have questions about either of these legislative initiatives, please contact any members of Best & Flanagan’s employment and labor team.  

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