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Anti-discrimination protection for Michigan LGBT employees is evolving

For Michigan LGBT employees, protection against workplace discrimination may come from local municipal ordinances.

Anti-discrimination legal protection for LGBT employees based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression vary from state to state and even from place to place within some states.

Such is the case in Michigan, where no federal or statewide laws are in place to provide such protection, but more than 30 municipalities have passed a variety of anti-discrimination protections for LGBT workers locally, according to MLive Media Group.

In March 2015, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission adopted a model nondiscrimination ordinance for cities and local governments to use as a starting point when considering adopting such protections into their local ordinances or codes. The existence of a model ordinance could result in more uniformity among local Michigan LBGT protections than exists now.

Equality Michigan reports that as of March 2015, 37 Michigan municipalities have nondiscrimination ordinances that protect LGBT people. Most of them provide protection in both employment and housing, but a few in just housing and one in housing and public accommodations. These cities include:

  • Detroit
  • Ann Arbor
  • Battle Creek
  • East Lansing
  • Flint
  • Grand Rapids
  • Kalamazoo
  • Lansing
  • Ypsilanti

In addition, individual Michigan employers may have their own internal anti-discrimination policies, although these types of policies usually have very little legal effect.

Federal anti-discrimination laws do not explicitly include LGBT persons as a protected class. However, a few courts and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces civil rights laws, have included discrimination against LGBT employees as falling within the prohibition against discrimination based on sex or gender. This could include illegal sexual harassment, especially that stemming from a hostile environment in which offensive remarks, pictures, jokes, and similar behavior creates an intolerable place to work for a targeted LGBT employee.

The federal law on this issue is evolving and an experienced employment law attorney would need to thoroughly investigate the situation and analyze potential legal remedies for a Michigan LGBT employee to see if there may be claims to make under federal or local laws. Such an employee should seek skilled legal counsel as early as possible for advice on how to handle a workplace situation, including what to report and to whom.

From their Detroit-area offices in Bloomfield Hills, the employment law attorneys at Sterling Employment Law, represent clients in employment matters involving discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. The law firm can also counsel employers about anti-discrimination requirements in the workplace.

Keywords: Michigan, LGBT, employee, employer, discrimination, ordinance