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Minnesota Agencies

Information on Minnesota State Agencies, Boards, Task Forces, and Commissions

Compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library

Human Rights Department

Also known as:
Minnesota Department of Human Rights
Active dates:1967-

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) is Minnesota’s civil rights enforcement agency charged with neutrally investigating acts of discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, education, public accommodations, and public service.


The Minnesota Department of Human Rights was established in 1967, but a number of commissions preceded the department as we know it today.

The Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC), created in 1955 (Laws of Minnesota 1955, chapter 516), consisted of nine members, one from each congressional district, appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate. The commissioners' terms were set at five years, and at least one of the members had to be a lawyer. The commission's chairman was designated by the governor and the executive director was chosen by the commission.

The duty of the FEPC was to formulate policies to put the Fair Employment Practices Act into effect. The commission was given the power to employ attorneys; to issue, receive, and investigate complaints alleging discrimination in employment because of race, creed, color, or national origin; to subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, and take testimony relating to discrimination complaints; and to conduct research on discriminatory employment practices.

If a complaint of employment discrimination could not be resolved through education, conference, conciliation, and persuasion, the governor was empowered to set up a three-member board of review drawn from a panel of twelve members previously appointed by the governor. The board held public hearings and rendered a decision that could be enforced by, or appealed to, the state district court.

In 1961, the FEPC was succeeded by the State Commission Against Discrimination (SCAD), when its jurisdiction was amended to include fair housing practices (Laws of Minn. 1961, chap. 428). This new commission was given jurisdiction over housing discrimination complaints. The organization and other duties of the commission remained essentially the same. SCAD worked closely with the Governor's Human Rights Commission in areas of concern to both groups.

In 1967, the state of Minnesota created the Department of Human Rights (Laws of Minn. 1967, chap. 897) when the legislature broadened the scope of SCAD. In addition to succeeding SCAD, the department also absorbed the duties of the Governor's Human Rights Commission, the Minneapolis Mayor's Council on Human Relations, and the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, which had been created by executive order in 1963.

[Note: History adapted from MNHS' finding aid on the Human Rights Department.]

Agency heads:

Commissioner; term, 4 years or pleasure of governor

Note: The Legislative Reference Library may have additional reports on or by this group available through our catalog.
Irene Gomez-Bethke, Chicana activist and former Minnesota Human Rights commissioner, dies at 86. Star Tribune, 3/26/2021.
'Small and mighty': Minnesota human rights agency faces test in police probe. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is embarking on its biggest task yet, digging into a decade worth of Minneapolis police procedures, policies and practices.. Star Tribune, 6/5/2020.
Minnesota Human Rights Department launches probe into Minneapolis police. Star Tribune, 6/3/2020.
Minnesota Department of Human Rights complaint handling process flowchart. MDHR Website, September 2019.
News clippings and documents: Commissioner of Human Rights. Agencies Notebook Collection, 1967-2021.
News clippings and documents: Human Rights Department. Agencies Notebook Collection, 1973-2020.
Record last updated: 12/21/2020

All information on this group from the Library’s collection of agency notebooks has been digitized. These materials are incorporated into the “documents/articles” section of the record. Please contact a librarian with any questions. The Minnesota Agencies database is a work in progress.

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