Have You Been the Victim of Sexual Harassment? Consider Filing a Complaint under Michigan Civil Rights Law

Contact: Vicki Levengood - 517-241-7978
Agency: Civil Rights

November 30, 2017

Lansing — Michigan residents who have been subjected to sexual harassment may be able to file a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) and other state and federal laws that provide protection to victims of harassment.

“We are experiencing a national time of reckoning with regard to sexual harassment and sexual misconduct,” said Agustin V. Arbulu, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “It is important to remember that sexual harassment doesn’t only happen in the high-powered worlds of politics, news and entertainment. It can happen to anyone. I encourage any Michigan resident who is a victim of sexual harassment to contact the Department of Civil Rights so they are better informed of their rights.”

Under Michigan law, sexual harassment constitutes illegal discrimination. In most instances, victims of sexual harassment must first make it clear to the harasser that the sexual conduct and/or communication is unwelcome. Report all forms of employment harassment to your supervisor (unless the supervisor is the harasser), human resources director, or other person designated by your employer. The employer has to know about the alleged harassment in order to stop it and prevent further harassment.

Outside the employment setting, you should report the harassment to a landlord/property manager, or the supervisor of the harasser.

If the harassment continues or you are uncomfortable reporting the incident, you can contact MDCR for assistance. In order to file a complaint of discrimination under ELCRA, the sexual harassment must have occurred within 180 days and must be related to employment, education, housing, public accommodation, public service or law enforcement.  If the alleged sexual harassment meets these parameters, MDCR will take the complaint and conduct a thorough and impartial investigation.

Under ELCRA, sexual harassment means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and/or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature when:

1) Submission to such conduct or communication is made a term or condition - either explicitly or implicitly - to obtain employment, public accommodations or public services, education, or housing;

2) Submission to or rejection of such conduct or communication is used as a factor in decisions affecting an individual’s employment, public accommodations or public services, education, or housing;

3) Or, such conduct or communication substantially interferes with an individual’s employment, public accommodations or public service, education, or housing.

Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Your supervisor fires or demotes you because you refuse sexual advances.

  • You must endure a hostile work environment due to inappropriate touching, exposure of genitals, or repeated sexual remarks, jokes, cartoons and/or photographs.

  • You are told that sexual comments or conduct are a part of the job you should just accept or quit.

  • Your landlord offers to reduce your rent for sex or threatens to evict you when you refuse.

  • Your university professor offers to raise your grade in exchange for sexual favors or reduces your grade when you refuse.

  • You apply for public services and are told your request will be processed more quickly in exchange for sex.

  • You are sexually assaulted.NOTE: MDCR encourages all victims of a physical assault to report the assault to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Although the majority of victims of sexual harassment are women harassed by men, the law recognizes that a person of any gender may be harassed by someone of a different or the same gender.

If after reporting the incident the harassment continues, or if you are not comfortable reporting it, contact the Michigan Department of Civil Rights at 800-482-3604, or go to Michigan.gov/MDCR and click on “File a Complaint” at the top of the page. If you are unsure of your options, you can talk with MDCR staff about whether there is a legal basis for filing a complaint.  

“When in doubt, let MDCR help,” said MDCR Director Agustin V. Arbulu. “Never assume there is no option other than to silently endure sexual harassment.” 

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is charged with investigating and resolving discrimination complaints and works to prevent discrimination through educational programs that promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws. The Department also provides information and services to businesses on diversity initiatives and equal employment law.  For more information on the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, go to www.michigan.gov/mdcr.