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Michigan Civil Rights Commission Expands Reach of State Discrimination Law

May 22, 2018

On May 21, 2018, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission (MCRC) expanded its interpretation of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, education, housing, real estate, and the use of public accommodations and public services.  The 5-0-1 vote does not change the law itself but instead changes the MCRC’s interpretation of the law.  

Before this decision, discrimination based on sex was actionable under ELCRA but the MCRC did not interpret sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination.  In its recent decision, the MCRC expanded its interpretation of sex discrimination to include those protections.  In doing so, the MCRC follows the trend of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and some federal courts in interpreting similar language from Title VII.

This decision has immediate effect, as the MCRC will begin processing complaints utilizing its new interpretation as early as this week. Michigan employers should review their current employment practices, procedures, handbooks, and policies to ensure they are compliant with this development.

If you have any questions concerning this matter, please contact one of Honigman’s Labor and Employment attorneys.