2021 Policy Memorandum
Date: 92nd Legislature, 2021 session
Re: Employer & Employee Disability Interactive Process Amendment for the Human Rights Act
The Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provide protections from discrimination based on disability in employment, housing, public services, and other areas. As part of these disability protections, entities are required to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. To determine what accommodations are necessary, the individual and the entity generally engage in conversations – an interactive process – about the individual’s needs and the practicalities of the request.
In 2019, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the lower court ruling in Thaleaha McBee v. Team Industries, Inc., interpreting the MHRA as not requiring an interactive process by an employer in the provision of reasonable accommodations. This ruling incorrectly categorized the ADA as predating the MHRA. When the MHRA was written, the term “interactive process” was not commonly used. This bill is necessary to ensure that state and federal law remain aligned.
Both the federal ADA and the Minnesota Human Rights Act provide protections from discrimination based on disability, including reasonable accommodations protections. The disability protections in the Minnesota Human Rights Act predate the ADA and use somewhat different language to similar effect. When the MHRA disability protections were passed into law, the term “interactive process” was not commonly used. Currently, an individual with an issue involving discrimination and the interactive process could only seek relief under federal law. That individual would still potentially have a Minnesota Human Rights Act claim, but the claim would be more difficult to prove and offer fewer protections.
- MN Department of Human Rights
- Legal Aid/Disability Law Center
- Tenant/Housing Advocacy Groups
This bill does not expand rights under the MHRA; rather, it clarifies that the court ruled in error and returns to the prior interpretation. Adding explicit language to the MHRA, employers, landlords, and others who provide a reasonable accommodation would have clarity about their duties under the MHRA. Entities covered by the ADA already have a legal requirement to engage in an interactive process; this bill would not change that process.
Goal of Policy
This bill aims to ensure that state and federal laws are aligned, providing a clear and consistent process for individuals with disabilities seeking reasonable accommodation and for their employers.