State Law: Michigan


The Law


Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for an employer or labor organization to discriminate against someone on the basis of sex.


An "employer" under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act means "a person who has one or more employees, and includes an agent of that person."


Thus, the Michigan statute against discrimination in the workplace applies to all employers with one or more employees, while Title VII only applies to employers with 15+ employees.


The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act specifically covers employment discrimination on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, sex, height, weight, familial status, and marital status.


Discrimination on the basis of "sex" includes "pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth that does not include nontherapeutic abortion not intended to save the life of the mother."


Sexual harassment in Michigan is defined as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature under the following conditions:


    (a) Submission to the conduct or communication is made a term or condition either explicitly or implicitly to obtain employment …
    (b) Submission to or rejection of the conduct or communications by an individual is used as a factor in decisions affecting such individual’s employment …
    (c) The conduct or communication has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s employment … or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment …



Filing A Complaint


The Michigan Department of Civil Rights investigates complaints filed with it free of charge. Complaints under state law must be filed within 180 days of the date you became aware you were being discriminated against or the date of the alleged illegal act. You may file a complaint with the Commission by visiting a regional office, calling ((313) 456-3700), or emailing. Please see the Department’s website to find out which regional office you should contact.


A Rights Specialist will be available to assist you in filing a complaint. One option you have is to first write a Statement of Concern, which will be submitted to your employer. The employer will have 10 days to respond and agree to try to resolve the issue. If nothing is resolved at this time, a formal complaint will be processed. You can refuse to go through this early process and have a formal complaint processed right away. The Department may try to attempt early informal resolution of the charges with you and your employer.


A Civil Rights Representative will be assigned to your case, who will act as a neutral decision-maker to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe you have been discriminated against and your rights violated. You will be involved in this investigative process. If sufficient cause is not found, the complaint will be dismissed, and you will go through an exit interview.


If reasonable cause is found, you and your employer may be required to attempt to negotiate a settlement through a conciliation process. If settlement negotiations fail, a public hearing will be held. If your case goes to public hearing, you will not have to incur any legal expenses or other costs, as you would have to pay in a court case, unless you hire your own private attorney.


You may decide to go through the federal or state court process instead of the Commission’s investigative process. You must first file with the EEOC or Michigan Department of Civil Rights and request a Notice of Right to Sue letter in order to file in court. The attorney you hire will explain this process to you. Many Michigan attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court. However, most cases may be brought in either state or federal court.


For more information and a more detailed explanation of the complaint process, please visit the Michigan Department of Civil Rights website.