Minnesota Stops Punishing Woman for Crime She Never Committed, Following Letter from Public Interest Law Firm

Dan King
Dan King · August 28, 2023

ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, the Minnesota Department of Human Services finally agreed to stop preventing Ifrah Yassin from working at her family’s group home for people with disabilities over a crime she never committed. The decision comes more than a month after the Institute for Justice (IJ) sent a letter to the department, urging officials to stop their unjust punishment of Ifrah. 

“I’m so excited to finally be able to work and provide for myself and my daughter,” said Ifrah. “It never made sense to me that I was being punished for a crime I never committed. I’m glad to finally be done with this.” 

For years, Ifrah was permanently banned from working in certain fields over a crime she never actually committed. States throughout the country have laws that block people who were convicted of certain crimes from working in certain fields. However, Minnesota’s laws are uniquely strict, blocking anyone from working in health care if the Department of Human Services determines a “preponderance of the evidence indicates the individual has committed an act or acts that meet the definition” of certain crimes. The person does not need to have been convicted, or even charged, with the supposed crime. Making matters worse, the Department doesn’t tell the person what “evidence” was used against them in reaching the conclusion. 

“It’s good to see the department finally do the right thing in Ifrah’s case, but the issue still remains that the policy of blocking people from working over crimes they never committed is both wrong and unconstitutional,” said IJ Attorney Mike Greenberg. “Until this law is changed, innocent people will continue to suffer.” 

Ifrah’s lifetime ban from working in health care stems from a 2013 incident. She and her friends were briefly arrested on suspicion of robbery after getting into a late-night argument with a woman who chased them off with a knife. Police never found the purse that the woman claimed Ifrah and her friends stole, none of them were charged with any crimes, and they were promptly released when police realized the complainant gave a false name.  

None of those facts stopped the department from determining that Ifrah “committed an act that meets the definition of Aggravated Robbery,” and demanding that her employer fire her, even though the department acknowledged she “w[as] not convicted.” 

IJ is the nation’s premier defender of the right to earn an honest living. In 2020, IJ won a lawsuit on behalf of two Philadelphia-area women who were prevented from working in cosmetology because of old, unrelated crimes. IJ is currently challenging a Virginia law that is preventing an aspiring substance abuse counselor from working in that field because of a two-decade-old assault conviction, and challenging the Federal Communications Commission over a policy that threatens to strip Knoxville, Tennessee’s only Black-owned radio station of its license over its owner’s unrelated tax offense from 2009, for which he’s already served his time. In 2022, IJ also represented Ifrah and another woman as they sought justice after a corrupt Minnesota police officer wove a web of lies to frame them for crimes they never committed.