In wake of high-profile cases, sexual harassment bill proposed to protect victims


With two high-profile sexual harassment cases being investigated at Minnesota universities, state legislators are looking at changing state law to offer victims more protections when making a report.

They're looking at the issue after the resignations of University of Minnesota Athletic Director Norwood Teague and Winona State University's men's basketball coach Mike Leaf, both of whom are being investigated for sexual harassment.

Teague resigned after two female employees claimed he sexually harassed them, and at least four more additional complaints have now been filed.

Leaf resigned after reportedly making unwanted sexual advances toward one of his players.

University officials are investigating both cases. But State Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, who chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee, tells WCCO she thinks employees who report sexual harassment need more protections.

Bonoff told the Pioneer Press she has spoken to whistle blowers who reported harassment and lost their jobs, despite the fact they're supposed to be protected against retaliation.

Bonoff said it's still early in the process of crafting the bill, but her goal "the kind of whistleblower protections that allow [victims] to come forward without having it hurt their career." The measure would go beyond just protecting employees in public universities, she told the Pioneer Press.

Bonoff talked with WCCO's Esme Murphy Sunday.

This embed is invalid

Filing reports

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigates sexual harassment and discrimination charges. It defines sexual harassment as:

"[W]hen someone makes unwelcome sexual advances towards you. And these advances happen often enough to create a hostile environment for you at your job, in school or other protected area where the harassment is happening."

The Department of Human Rights offers resources for employers as well as employees.

Minneapolis attorney Lori Peterson tells the Pioneer Press increased funding for the department would be helpful.

The newspaper reports at the end of June, the department has 390 active cases, and the average determination takes 266 days.

The Star Tribune debunks some myths on workplace sexual harassment, noting, "Sexual harassment in the workplace is an actionable legal offense. Period."

Next Up

Screen Shot 2020-11-25 at 7.34.43 AM

Watch: Drunk squirrel in Minnesota captures the world's attention

The squirrel was immediately cut off after nearly tipping over.

Screen Shot 2020-11-25 at 7.15.09 PM

Small town gym refusing to close facing lawsuit from attorney general

The gym is facing a lawsuit and a temporary restraining order to halt their operations.

credit card, payment

Money Gal Coaching: Bouncing back after living your best life

Kelly Blodgett started Money Gal Coaching after paying down nearly $50K in debt in 18 months.


When do stores open on Black Friday this year?

Many major retailers will be open Black Friday, some for extended hours.

police tape, crime scene

Man found dead outside home near Cass Lake

The man was reportedly shot outside the property.


Gov. Walz announces $1M in grants to boost Minnesota tourism

The money will be used for marketing efforts to attract people to Minnesota's hard-hit tourist spots.

coronavirus, ICU

Nov. 25 COVID-19 update: 72 deaths ties Minnesota's single-day high

A COVID-19 update will not be provided on Thanksgiving Day.


Revival to open its fourth Twin Cities location

The fried chicken and smoked meat maestros are moving to St. Louis Park.

Duluth and Case Recreation Center

St. Paul to open two extra temporary shelters for homeless people

Mayor Melvin Carter announced the new shelters will be opened in the event of excess demand.