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What discrimination laws impact Michigan employers?

There are no shortage of challenges facing Michigan businesses. From dealing with volatile markets and stiff competition, to addressing changes in the industry, businesses face dynamic challenges that must be confronted head-on.

As discussed last week in this blog, another important issue facing businesses is the interaction between employer and employee. A number of employment law cases are filed each year that allege racial discrimination and other forms of discrimination, such as that discussed here last week.

There are several different laws that impact discrimination cases, beginning with three federal statutes. The most commonly-used of these statutes, Title VII, prohibits employers with at least 15 employees from discriminating based on color, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion and sex. It further prohibits retaliation in employment decisions.

Michigan law also contains additional protections for employees in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which applies to all employers. This state law prohibits discrimination in the areas of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status.

Each of these laws has different requirements that must be satisfied. For instance, an employee bringing a Title VII claim typically has to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing the action, which means proceeding through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shortly after the alleged discrimination.

Because of these varying requirements, employers may have different defenses available to the discrimination claim. Accordingly, it is important for employers to understand not only the factual basis of the discrimination claim, but the specific legal claims at issue as well.

Source: Michigan Bar, "Employment discrimination law in Michigan," accessed on June 4, 2016

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