What do “safety” and “equality” mean in Michigan workplaces? These words will have different and specific meanings to every person, but it is fair to say that most workers assume their workplace will provide safe conditions and will be free from bias and inequality. 

The Michigan Constitution says that every person is entitled to equal protection under the law and that discrimination based on religion, race, color, or nationality is prohibited. It is the basis of employee protections for all Michigan workplaces—from government jobs in Lansing to chemical manufacturing in Midland and fish processing plants in Wheatley.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment can be defined as repeated and unwelcome contact made by one employee toward another employee. If the contact causes a victim to suffer emotional harm or if it might do so, it is sexual harassment. Sexual harassment falls under the umbrella of discrimination. If you believe you have been harassed, there are laws that protect you, and there are online resources that can help you understand your rights.


Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act

The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (sometimes called the Public Act 453 of 1976) prohibits discrimination based on sex (gender), religion, race, skin color, national origin, marital status, disability, or age. The law specifically includes sexual harassment in its definition of sex discrimination, and it applies to all employers. Under this law, a claim of race-based discrimination is different from a hostile work environment claim. 

Race-based discrimination occurs when employers “hire or recruit, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against an individual with respect to employment, compensation, or a term, condition or privilege of employment [because of race]” (section 37.2202). A hostile work environment occurs when a workplace is so tainted by sexual harassment that it substantially interferes with employment or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment, for a reasonable person.

Making a Sexual Harassment Complaint

The first step in asserting your rights and ending the sexual harassment you have experienced is to report it to your manager or another trusted person in leadership at your workplace. That person should follow established procedures to open an investigation of your complaint. If the situation is rectified to your satisfaction, congratulations…your employer has supported you and followed Michigan employment laws. If, however, your employer’s investigation was not resolved to your satisfaction, you can file an employment lawsuit.

Victims filing an employment lawsuit based on the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act must make sure their lawsuit meets fundamental requirements for making a claim of sexual harassment. If your lawsuit does not follow the requirements, your claim could be dismissed. 

Getting Help

When you have been a victim of sexual harassment and want to file a complaint, you must understand the details of the law and you must make sure no mistakes are made in the lawsuit. An employment lawyer may be needed to support and help with this process.

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