Area of Law:
In all 50 states it is illegal to discriminate in the workplace on the basis of race, skin color, or national origin. The state of Michigan has state statutes that supplement the federal laws to protect workers from discrimination. This means that if you feel you have been the victim of a racial discrimination incident at work, you have options with regard to how you can proceed with getting your complaint dealt with in a fair and timely manner. If you are unsure about what your best course of action would be, you should seek the help of an attorney who can advise you about the best way to move forward with your particular case.
Many incidents of racial discrimination go unreported because employees are afraid of things like retaliation, having their pay docked, or losing their jobs. While these are certainly legitimate concerns, Michigan has a Whistleblower's Protection Act dictating that employees cannot be retaliated against for attempting to defend their civil rights. In other words, if you file a racial discrimination complaint in the state of Michigan and your employer fires you or otherwise retaliates against you as a response, then this is a serious violation in and of itself and can be added to your discrimination complaint.
So what can you do if you feel you have been the victim of workplace racial discrimination? The most important thing to do is to act quickly. Both the state-run Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) and the federally operated Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have very tight and strict statutes of limitations governing how long you can wait to file a racial discrimination claim. In other words, if you were the victim of racial discrimination a long time ago, you cannot come forward many years later and hope to file a claim. At both the state and federal level in Michigan, you have 180 days from the date of the alleged discriminatory incident to file your claim. However, you should not take this as an open invitation to wait five months to file as you may be up against other legal deadlines that you are not aware of, and you do not want your claim to be dismissed on a technicality if you miss a deadline.
Since the MDCR and the EEOC work together to process claims, you do not need to file with both agencies. However, there are some cases that are better suited to be handled only at the state level, and the EEOC only deals with cases that involve employers with 15 or more employees. This is important to remember because if you work for a small company, you will be required to file only at the state level and not at the federal level. Although, even if you work for a large company, your lawyer may still advise you to file at the state level if doing so will help your claim be processed more quickly.