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Have You Been the Victim of Sexual Harassment? File a Complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights

Lansing, MI-The Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) reminds residents that sexual harassment may constitute illegal discrimination and victims of these acts have the right to file a complaint with the department.

"Recently Michigan has witnessed a number of sexual harassment and assault cases around the state, and yet many people are unaware that this behavior is a violation of their civil rights," said MDCR Director James E. White. "We urge anyone who has been the victim of sexual harassment to contact us and explore their options under law as soon as possible."

Under Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) and other state and federal laws, sexual harassment constitutes illegal discrimination. To file a complaint of discrimination under ELCRA, the harassment must have occurred within the last 180 days and 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.

What constitutes sexual harassment?

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; or

3) Such conduct or communication substantially interferes with an individual's employment, public accommodations or public service, education, or housing.

In most instances, victims of sexual harassment must make it clear to their harasser that the sexual conduct or communication is unwelcome. In an employment setting, report the harassment to your supervisor (unless the supervisor is the harasser), human resources director, or the person designated by your employer. Outside the employment setting, you should report sexual harassment to a landlord or property manager, or to the harasser's supervisor.

Examples of sexual harassment include:

  • Your supervisor fires or demotes you because you refuse sexual advances.
  • You must endure a hostile work environment due to inappropriate touching, exposure, or repeated sexual remarks, jokes, cartoons and/or photographs.
  • You are told that sexual comments or conduct are a part of the job you and should just accept it 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. MDCR urges all victims of a physical assault to report it to law enforcement immediately.

Even if the harassment occurred more than 180 days ago, we urge victims to contact MDCR to find out if there are other remedies available to them.  Under certain federal laws, an individual may have up to a year to file a complaint, and up to 3 years to file a lawsuit under Michigan law.

Although most victims of sexual harassment are women, a person of any gender may be harassed by someone of a different or the same gender.

"When in doubt, let MDCR help," said MDCR Director James E. White. "Never assume there is no option other than to silently endure sexual harassment." 

To report sexual harassment and explore filing a complaint, contact the Michigan Department of Civil Rights at 1-800-482-3604, or go to and click on "File a Complaint" at the top of the page. If you are unsure of your options, you can talk with a member of the MDCR staff about whether there is a legal basis for filing a complaint.  

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission was created by the Michigan Constitution to safeguard constitutional and legal guarantees against discrimination. The Commission is charged with investigating alleged discrimination against any person because of religion, race, color or national origin, genetic information, sex, age, marital status, height, weight, arrest record, and physical and mental disability. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights serves as the operational arm of the Commission.


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