Employment discrimination under Michigan or federal law can be a very complex and nuanced. The following is an overview of important points employers need to be aware of under Michigan's employment discrimination statute:
Employment Discrimination Under Michigan Law
For Michigan employers the primary state statute that prohibits workplace discrimination is Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA).
Michigan's ELCRA prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, height, weight, or marital status. Additionally:
- Filing administrative complaints under ELCRA: An individual who experienced workplace discrimination may file an administrative complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rrights. A charge must be filed within 180 days after the alleged discriminatory act or within 180 days after the act was or should have been discovered.
- Is filing an administrative charge a prerequisite before filing a lawsuit: It is not necessary to file a charge with the MDCR to preserve an aggrieved employee's statutory claim. Instead, an such an individual may bring a civil action, request injunctive relief, damages, or both directly and initially in circuit court, without exhausting administrative remedies before filing suit.
- How long does an individual have to file a lawsuit for discrimination: The period of limitations for a cause of action under the ELCRA is three years. MCL 600.5805(10).
- Determining when the statute of limitations begins to run: A claim of discriminatory discharge accrues on the date the plaintiff is discharged. And the last day worked will be considered the date of discharge. This means that an employee's severance agreement does not affect the termination date.
- Can an employer shorten the statute of limiations: The short answer is that employers can generally shorten the statute of limitations. In this regard, Michigan courts have upheld six-month contractual limitations period in the context of an age discrimination claim brought under the ELCRA.
- Jury Trials: Michigan's ELCRA provides plaintiffs a right to a jury trial.
Obviously employers will want to have policies and procedures that will eliminate or, at the very least, reduce situations that could give rise to potential employment discrimination claims. In furtherance of this goal, the preceding points should be discussed with your company's employment law specialist.
For more information about discrimination issues and employment law matters under Michigan or federal law, contact Jason Shinn.