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New legislation to protect Michigan interns from harassment

Employees have to deal with a lot at work: demanding bosses, long work days, competitive coworkers and stressful deadlines, just to name a few. Harassment should not be one of the things employees have to deal with on a daily basis, however. It interferes with work productivity and can result in significant negative consequences and effects on the employee. Fortunately, for most employees, there exists legal protection against suffering sexual harassment in the workplace.

A new bill recently introduced by a Michigan lawmaker would help close a gap in the protections against sexual harassment that currently exist. Unpaid interns and volunteers are not protected from sexual harassment and discrimination by the same laws that protect compensated employees. In response to this absence of protection, Michigan Representative David Knezek, a Democrat, originally introduced a bill to protect these unpaid interns and volunteers by amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. He changed course after recognizing that the law was being delayed due to difficulties opening the Civil Rights Act, so he introduced a second bill amending a different law, the Michigan Occupation Safety and Health Act, with the same goal of protecting these interns and volunteers from harassment and discrimination.

When Michigan employees-and hopefully soon interns and volunteers-suffer harassment and discrimination at the workplace, they have legal recourse. The law provides protection by allowing these injured employees to sue their employers in order to make the harassment or discrimination stop, be reinstated to a job they were unfairly fired from or not hired for, and/or receive compensation for the damages suffered as a result of the harassment or discrimination.

Filing a lawsuit against an employer or coworker for discrimination and harassment can be very complicated, stressful and daunting. Working with an attorney experienced in employment litigation can simplify the process by explaining what the plaintiff can expect and helping the plaintiff gather the information that will be critical to the case. It is important not to shy away from filing a lawsuit in these situations because chances are that if one person is suffering harassment and discrimination at the hands of an employer or coworker, such actions are also affecting others.

Source:, "Michigan bill would protect unpaid interns from sexual harassment," Emily Lawler, Sept. 19, 2014

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