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Filing a Discrimination Claim – Michigan

1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in Michigan?

Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, sex, age, weight, height, marital status or arrest record. The Persons With Disabilities Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of physical and mental disability, including AIDS and HIV.

2. How do I file a discrimination claim in Michigan?

A discrimination claim can be filed with either with the state administrative agency, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have a work-sharing agreement, which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. Filing a claim with both agencies is unnecessary, as long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you want it to cross-file the claim with the other agency.

The Michigan anti-discrimination law covers employers of any size. Therefore, if your workplace has between 1 and 14 employees, you may wish to file with the MDCR, as the EEOC enforces federal law which covers only employers with 15 or more employees. Filing with the MDCR is not required to pursue a discrimination claim directly in court, but if you do not have an attorney, you may wish to see whether the MDCR can assist you in resolving your claim without filing in court. MDCR complaints must be filed within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against.

To file a claim with the MDCR, contact the nearest office below. More information about filing a claim with MDCR can be found at http://www.michigan.gov/mdcr.

Battle Creek Office
190 E. Michigan Ave.
Suite B67
Battle Creek, MI 49014
Phone: (616) 964-7193
Fax: (616) 968-1524
Benton Harbor Office
Vincent Place, Suite 602
185 E. Main St.
Benton Harbor, MI 49022
Phone: (616) 925-7044
Fax: (616) 934-2133

Detroit Service Center
State of Michigan Plaza Bldg., 6th Flr.
1200 Sixth Ave.
Detroit, MI 48226
Phone: (313) 256-2663
Fax: (313) 256-2167
WATS: (800) 482-3604
TDD: (313) 961-1552

Flint Office
Flint State Office Building, 7th Floor
125 East Union
Flint, MI 48502
Phone: (810) 760-2805
Fax: (810) 760-7363

Grand Rapids Office
State Office Building, 4th Floor
350 Ottawa, N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Phone: (616) 356-0380
Fax: (616) 356-0399

Kalamazoo Office
535 South Burdick St., Suite 230
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Phone: (616) 337-3640
Fax: (616) 337-3636
Lansing Office
Manpower Building, Suite 101
741 N. Cedar Street
Lansing, MI 48906
Phone: (517) 334-9335
Fax: (517) 334-9350

Marquette Office
2833 U.S. 41 West
Marquette, MI 49855
Phone: (906) 226-9945
Fax: (906) 226-9945

Saginaw Office
State Office Building
411 East Genesee Street
Saginaw, MI 48607
Phone: (989) 758-1686
Fax: (989) 758-1564

Traverse City Office
State Office Building
701 S. Elmwood, Suite 10 – Room 410
Traverse City, MI 49685
Phone: (231) 922-5211
Fax: (231) 922-5212

To file a claim with the EEOC, contact your local EEOC office below. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/howtofil.html.

EEOC’s Detroit District Office
477 Michigan Avenue
Room 865
Detroit, MI 48226-9704
Phone: 313-226-7636
TTY: 313-226-7599

3. What are my time deadlines?

Do not delay in contacting the MDCR or EEOC to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. In order for these agencies to act on your behalf, you must file with the MDCR (or cross-file with the EEOC) within 180 days or the EEOC (or cross-file with the state agency) within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible. Yet if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file a discrimination claim with the state and federal administrative agencies.

4. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Michigan?

If your case is successfully resolved by an administrative agency, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney or file a lawsuit (to resolve your case, you probably will be required as to sign a release of your legal claims). If your case is not resolved by the MDCR or EEOC, and you may want to continue to pursue the matter, you will need to pursue your claim in court.

A federal employment discrimination case cannot be filed in court without first going to the EEOC, as discussed above, and the EEOC dismisses the charge. This process is called exhaustion of your administrative remedy. Exhaustion is not required to file a discrimination claim in court based on state law.

Due to recent changes in the make-up of the Michigan judiciary, some Michigan attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court, where judges tend to treat plaintiffs in employment cases more favorably than in state court; however, cases may be brought in either state or federal court.

The EEOC must first issue the document known as Dismissal and Notice of Rights or Notice of Right to Sue (Form 161), before you can file a case based upon your federal claim. A lawsuit based on your federal court discrimination claim must be filed in federal or state court within 90 days of the date you receive the notice. (Be sure to mark down that date when you receive it.) Cases filed in Michigan state court must be filed within 3 years of the date you believe you were discriminated against. These deadlines are called the statute of limitations.

If you have received one of these agency notices of dismissal dismissing your case, do not delay consulting with an attorney. If your lawsuit is not filed in court by the deadline, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case. Please be aware, however, that you may have other claims arising out of your employment relationship which have shorter statutes of limitations. For example, claims brought under the state’s Whistleblowers Protection Act must be filed within 90 days of the retaliatory act; defamation claims must be filed within one year; assault and battery claims must be filed within two years.

Some courts in Michigan have held that the employer may shorten the time within which you must file a claim. Therefore, it is very important that you and your attorney review all documents of your employer to determine whether or not there is any provision shortening the statute of limitations on your claims. Also, you may be required to arbitrate your discrimination claims if your employer has a proper arbitration provision. This must also be reviewed before filing any lawsuit. However, an arbitration provision does not prohibit an employee from filing a charge with the MDCR or EEOC.