Filing a Discrimination Claim – Michigan

Employment discrimination is the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of other people at work, because of their membership in a legally protected category such as race, sex, age, or religion.  Each state has passed laws and rules to protect your workplace rights: this page covers Michigan employment discrimination.  The purpose of Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act is to protect workers in Michigan from unlawful discrimination in employment. Read below to learn more about Michigan employment law and how the law protects you.

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, familial status, 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.

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  MDCR Website.

Detroit Service Center 
3054 West Grand Blvd., Suite 3-600
Detroit, MI  48202 
Phone: (313) 456-3700
Fax: (313) 3701 
Toll Free: (800) 482-3604 
TDD: (313) 961-1552

Lansing Office 
Capitol Tower Building
110 W. Michigan Ave.
Suite 800
Lansing, MI 48933
Phone: (517) 241-3165 
Fax: (517) 241-1965

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

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 the EEOC How to File page.

EEOC’s Detroit District Office 
477 Michigan Avenue 
Room 865 
Detroit, MI 48226-9704 
Phone: 1-800-669-4000  
TTY: 1-800-669-6820

EEOC has launched an online service that enables individuals who have filed a discrimination charge to check the status of their charge online.  This service provides a portal to upload and receive documents and communicate with the EEOC, allowing for a faster transmitting period.  Those who have filed a charge can access information about their charge at their convenience, and allow entities that have been charged to receive the same information on the status of the charge.  All of the EEOC offices now use the Digital Charge System.  If you file on or after September 2, 2016, the Online Charge Status System is available for use.  The system is not available for charges filed prior to this date or for charges filed with EEOC’s state and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies. The system can be accessed at the EEOC website. If you do not have internet or need language assistance, you may call the toll-free number at 1-800-669-4000. For additional help, you may also call the toll free number to retrieve the same information provided in the Online Charge Status System.

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. What happens after I file a charge with the EEOC?

When your charge is filed, the EEOC will give you a copy of your charge with your charge number. Within 10 days, the EEOC will also send a notice and a copy of the charge to the employer. At that point, the EEOC may decide to do one of the following:

  • Ask both you and the employer to take part in a mediation program
  • Ask the employer to provide a written answer to your charge and answer questions related to your claim, then your charge will be given to an investigator
  • Dismiss the claim if your charge was not filed in time or if the EEOC does not have jurisdiction

If the EEOC decides to investigate your charge, the EEOC may interview witnesses and gather documents.  Once the investigation is complete, they will let you and the employer know the result. If they decides that discrimination did not occur then they will send you a “Notice of Right to Sue.” This notice gives you permission to file a lawsuit in a court of law. If the EEOC determines that discrimination occurred then they will try to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer. If a settlement cannot reached, your case will be referred to the EEOC’s legal staff (or the Department of Justice in certain cases), who will decide whether or not the agency should file a lawsuit. If the EEOC decides not to file a lawsuit then they will give you a “Notice of Right to Sue.”

How long the investigation takes depends on a lot of different things, including the amount of information that needs to be gathered and analyzed. On average, it takes the EEOC nearly 6 months to investigate a charge. A charge is often able to settle faster through mediation (usually in less than 3 months).

5. 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.

If a discrimination claim is filed in state court, the MDCR cannot the pursue the matter unless the court fails to resolve the claim based on the evidence presented or fails to  reach a settlement. MDCR may review the complain within 30 days of the court proceedings.

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.

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.