Fair Treatment in the workplace can be a complicated topic. If I say this am I breaking the law? If I do this could I get fired? Those questions and more will be answered below as we discuss harassment, discrimination and retaliation laws in the state of Michigan. When it comes to the state of Michigan there are illegal classes that one cannot discriminate against. There are many protected classes, some of them are; race, gender, age, disability, etc. If you are being harassed or are harassing someone based on these characteristics the law is being broken. Tied in with this is if you report harassment or discrimination based on these classes you cannot be retaliated against or retaliate against the person making the claims as that is also illegal. When it comes down to it however, there are no laws calling for equal treatment of all employees. Someone could get bullied or harassed as long as the discrimination does not fall under one of the protected classes. In no way should harassment be condoned or tolerated in the workforce but, as it is under the law, people are able to get away with it.
There are other things to consider then the law when harassment comes into play. The biggest factors are if you are a part of a Union and the harassment policy at the place in which you work. Starting with Unions, CBAs (collective bargaining agreements) are legally binding contracts between the Union and the place of employment. Meaning in your CBA there could be additional protection against harassment that extends beyond just the protected classes. This would be if those protections are being violated, there would be reason for legal action. A company’s harassment policy is different from a CBA. The major difference is while it is a policy that should be followed it is not law. Meaning the employer can enforce it at their discretion. This can sometimes lead to situations in which someone would believe they have protection against harassment beyond the standard protected classes but, in reality it’s up to the employer to enforce it.
If you believe you are being harassed or discriminated against there are a few steps you should take. One is to figure out what type of discrimination is happening, there could and often is more than one type. Second is to figure out if you are part of a CBA or what your company policy is on the type of harassment. Third and most important would be to contact a reputable local employment law attorney. The attorney will be able to help you identify what type of discrimination is happening and what course of legal action, if any, you could take on the matter. Below are links to the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR). If you plan to file with the MDCR there is a one-hundred and eighty day statute of limitations. Finally there are also links to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and some of the major acts they have passed.