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IN MINNESOTA, IT IS CURRENTLY LEGAL TO GRAB A PERSON'S CLOTHED BACKSIDE AND WHERE SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN STATE GOVERNMENT RUNS A MUCK

Posted by David Katz | Mar 17, 2018 | 0 Comments

A. The great state of Minnesota has got more than just a lot of lakes. It also has a law which makes it legal to make contact with someone's clothed backside and not suffer any legal penalty.

Minnesota, Minnesota. Land of many lakes, home to the Mall of America, and birthplace of Scotch Tape and Betty Crocker. Not to mention the home of the Mayo Clinic and the birthplace of F.Scott Fitzgerald and the Green Giant. Minnesota has also bestowed upon us progressive politicians such as Paul Wellstone, Hubert Humphrey and, of course, Al Franken. Minnesota is widely known to be the second most liberal jurisdiction in the country behind the State of Washington and known for its forward-thinking academies of higher learning like Carleton College and the University of Minnesota.

But outward appearances are often misleading as we know. Despite its progressive political and cultural environment, Minnesota still maintains a law on its books that you can make contact with a person's clothed backside and not be subject to any criminal or civil violation. As such,  Minnesota law has provided a "get out of jail free card" for all those who want to participate in what would be considered a battery and/or an assault in most other states.

As it currently stands, Minnesota Statutes section 609.3451, subdivision 1, excludes from the definition of criminal sexual conduct in the fifth degree "the intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the buttocks." The odd thing is that no one really knows the origins of when this loophole under Minnesota law actually began. What is currently known, however, is that two weeks ago five women in a Ridley, Minnesota gymnasium alleged that various men had touched their posteriors as they were dressed in bathing suits. Several of the men were arrested but only charged with disorderly conduct but only for the reason that they had entered the women's locker room. 

Now that we are in the #MeToo era, such a law is not only embarrassing at the very least but an egregious affront particularly to our ongoing national discussion of how to eliminate sexual harassment from both the workplace and society at large. But before you start contemplating plans to move to Minnesota, please be aware that there is a bill now working its way through the Minnesota legislature that would remove the exemption to allow people to make contact with other people's clothed posteriors. If the bill passes, the penalty for violating the criminal sexual conduct statute with the clothed buttocks exemption removed will result in a misdemeanor punishable up to a year in prison and a fine capped at $3,000.00. 

Although it is currently not against the law in Minnesota to have such contact, being groped on the buttocks is demeaning and violative of someone's personal space and integrity. Apparently, former Senator Franken decided to take advantage of the loophole when after he resigned from the Senate amid allegations from multiple women of sexually inappropriate behavior, including several women who allege that Franken grabbed their buttocks while posing for photos with him at various public events in Minnesota. Additionally, several state legislators took advantage of the same loophole and later resigned due to mounting public pressure by the state's electorate.

B. Minnesota state government has its own problems with sexual harassment. 

Above and beyond the insanity of Minnesota statute, section 609.3451, various state agencies in Minnesota have received 135 substantiated complaints of sexual harassment over the past year to which Minnesota taxpayers have paid out about $709,500.00 in settlement awards for seven sexual harassment cases over the past six years. The government is aware of the government's problem. This is why the Minnesota Management and Budget Office recently released a new report on harassment in the state government's executive branch. The agency recognized that the problem is so rampant that the only way to solve it would be to establish an independent office to receive reports of sexual harassment, investigate all claims and enforce government policies.

As well, a recent Star Tribune Minnesota poll revealed that two out of every three women in Minnesota have personally experienced sexual harassment.

When it comes to Minnesota, you cannot always a judge a book by its cover(up).

About the Author

David Katz

Attorney David S.Katz is the founder and managing partner of the Katz Law Group, P.C., located in Marlborough, Massachusetts...

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