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May 2018
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May 24, 2018

Michigan Joins 34 States in Extending LGBTQ Protections to Employees

In recent years, federal courts have split on the issue of whether Title VII’s anti-discrimination protection extends to LGBTQ employees. And while the EEOC has taken the position that Title VII prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, the Department of Justice in a memo released last October firmly disagreed. As a result, many states and local municipalities have attempted to provide legal protection by enacting their own laws and ordinances to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Michigan has now done the same. On Monday, May 22, 2018, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission interpreted the Elliot-Larson Act’s “because of sex” provision – modeled after Title VII – to include sexual orientation and gender identity, effectively prohibiting discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. Michigan joins at least 34 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, which currently extend such protection to LGBTQ individuals.  

As a result, employers may see an increase in charges of discrimination with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights based on LGBTQ status. And it is possible that there will be legal challenges to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s interpretation. 

Some employers have already added LGBTQ status as a protected category in their equal employment opportunity policies. But other employers have taken a wait-and-see approach pending clarity from the courts. 

For more information on what this change means for employers like you, contact your Labor and Employment attorney at Warner Norcross + Judd.

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