Michigan Extends Employment Law Protections to Prohibit Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

17 April 2023 Labor & Employment Law Perspectives Blog
Author(s): Philip B. Phillips

Although many company equal employment opportunity and no-harassment policies prohibit discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation and gender identity, not all applicable state civil rights laws provide such protections. Currently, twenty-two states, the District of Columbia, and a number of localities have laws prohibiting discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Last month, Michigan joined this group of states by expanding its civil rights statute (known as the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act) to expressly cover sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Michigan’s Democratic-led House and Senate, joined by several Republicans, voted for the legislation, which covers employment, housing, and other areas. In signing the legislation, Governor Gretchen Whitmer stated that, “we are taking a long overdue step to ensure that no one can be fired from their job or evicted from their home because of who they are or how they identify.” 

As we previously reported, the U.S. Supreme Court held in 2020 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity, expanding federal protections to all U.S. employees for the first time. Although already prohibited by federal law, Michigan considered it important that its civil rights statute similarly provide protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and provide aggrieved individuals with recourse under state law.

Many Michigan employer policies have long prohibited discrimination and harassment against employees and applicants for employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, in light of the above changes in Michigan law, Michigan employers should nonetheless review their policies and procedures, as well as training materials, to ensure that they are appropriately updated to comply with Michigan as well as federal law. Your Foley labor and employment attorney is available to provide assistance and answer any questions you may have.

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