Minnesota settles with Renaissance Festival operator over sexual assault allegation

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The department says the Mid-America Festivals Corporation violated state civil rights law by failing to provide a safe work environment free from sexual assault and harassment.

An investigation revealed the probable cause of the festival artistic director’s rape of a freelance photographer at the festival grounds in Shakopee in 2017. It also determined that the festival had an ineffective sexual harassment policy which the artistic director violated Many times.

“It’s just not enough to have a policy in place,” said Rebecca Lucero, Minnesota human rights commissioner. “You really have to implement this policy through culture change and accountability. “

The investigation found that a highly sexualized atmosphere existed at the Renaissance Festival, with the artistic director expecting artists to engage in sexual acts instead of paying rent.

Scott County prosecutors filed sexual misconduct charges against former festival artistic director Carr Hagerman in 2018. However, those charges were later dropped after the alleged victim, citing personal challenges, said that it would be too difficult to get to court to testify.

A message left with Hagerman’s attorney, Piper Kenney Wold, was not immediately returned.

The rule applies to all Mid-America Festivals operations in Minnesota, including the Trail of Terror in Shakopee. Mid-America does not admit any wrongdoing or liability in this matter.

In a statement, the company said it disagreed with the human rights department’s factual findings, in part because the department had not spoken with the accused employee.

However, the company said it agrees that an allegation of sexual assault is a very serious matter and is committed to creating a “positive, safe and welcoming work environment.” Since 2017, the festival has expanded training and encouraged anyone on the festival grounds to report any inappropriate activity.

All employees will be required to undergo a background check before working at the festival for the upcoming season, the statement said.

As part of the settlement, the company agreed to pay the state $ 10,000, as well as implement anti-harassment policies, train employees, and provide multiple ways to report harassment.

“This is what we want to do to make sure that there are strong structures and accountability mechanisms to prevent this from happening again,” Lucero said, “and to make sure that there is no systemic failure at all levels when it comes to an employer’s responsibility. obligation to ensure the safety of their workers.

The case was one of three sexual harassment regulations announced by the ministry this week. The other two involved Red Cabin Custard in Ely and the Minnesota Sword Club in Minneapolis. In both of these cases, the owner was the one who sexually harassed the employees, Lucero said.

The human rights commissioner said all three cases involved businesses of different size, type and location and showed how widespread and pervasive the problem of sexual harassment is.

“This is not about a person doing something wrong,” she said. “It’s about the actual structures and systems in place that allow this to happen.”

One in four cases of workplace discrimination filed with the state’s Human Rights Department involves gender discrimination, including sexual assault and harassment, she said.



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