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Michigan Department of Civil Rights Files Formal Charge of Discrimination Against Studio 8 Hair Lab LLC
November 15, 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Lansing, MI—After investigating several certified complaints filed against a Traverse City salon, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) today filed a formal charge of discrimination against the Studio 8 Hair Lab LLC.
In the charge, MDCR asserts that after an investigation of at least three complaints filed with the agency, they have found that statements published by Studio 8 Hair Lab LLC on social media and elsewhere denying services to individuals based on sex is a violation of the state’s primary civil rights law, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA).
Find the full text of the charge of discrimination against Studio 8 here.
“This is not a complicated case,” said John E. Johnson, Jr., Executive Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “It is not a case that relies on complex legal concepts or requires expansive or convoluted arguments to explain. But none of that is to say it is not an important case. It is.”
“Our mandate, enshrined in the Michigan Constitution, is to impartially investigate allegations of discrimination,” said Johnson. “When we establish what we believe is the truth behind a complaint, we act on it. In this case, the truth is that Studio 8 through its owner openly and repeatedly violated the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act by stating in published comments that they would deny services to individuals based on sex – specifically in this case, gender identity.”
ELCRA prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, which includes businesses that provide goods or services to the public. The business does not have to bar someone from entering on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression to be in violation of the law.
Under ELCRA, it is a violation to print, post, or publish a statement or notice which indicates that the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services and facilities of a public accommodation will be refused an individual because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status, or that an individual's patronage of a place of public accommodation is objectionable, unwelcome, or undesirable because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status.
Since July of this year, MDCR has received a total of 21 complaints of discrimination against Studio 8. Of those, 3 are part of the current charge, another 3 are currently under investigation and 2 are being evaluated to determine if the department has jurisdiction.
Once MDCR has determined through a neutral and impartial investigation that discrimination has occurred, the agency attempts to resolve the complaint through conciliation. If a respondent refuses to come to an agreement, as is the case with Studio 8 Hair Lab LLC, MDCR will file a formal charge of discrimination with an administrative law judge (ALJ), who will set a date for a public hearing. At the hearing, witnesses testify under oath, the rules of evidence apply, and all parties have the right to cross examine witnesses.
Following the hearing, the judge will provide a recommendation as to whether discrimination took place and if so, what the appropriate penalty should be. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission will then review the recommendation. The Commission may adopt the judge’s recommendation, draft its own opinion based on the recommendation, and/or require an additional hearing in front of the Commission. The Commission will issue a final determination and order, which may include but is not limited to adopting the judge’s recommendation as its own, dismissing the case, and/or requiring corrective action that may include paying damages.
A claimant or respondent who does not agree with the Commission’s final order may appeal to the circuit court for review of the case.
“The law is clear,” said Johnson. “If your business provides services, facilities, goods or accommodations to the public, advertising that those services will not be offered to certain individuals based on sex is a violation of civil rights law and could put you at risk of the kind of charge Studio 8 is facing today.”
Access a recording of the Nov. 15 press conference announcing the charge against Studio 8 here.
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.
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