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Amended Protections Against Sex Discrimination

Effective March 31, 2024, Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act’s definition of sex, as a protected class, will be amended to include protections against discrimination based on pregnancy termination. Specifically, employers will be prohibited from discriminating in the workplace (hiring, firing, benefits, etc.) based on an individual’s sex, which will include pregnancy, childbirth, the termination of a pregnancy, or a related medical condition.

Previously, the law defined sex as including, pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth that did not include nontherapeutic abortion (pregnancy termination not intended to save the life of the mother).


Hairstyle Discrimination Prohibited

As of June 15, 2023, the state’s employment discrimination law, which applies to employers of all sizes, defines race to include protective traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles. Examples of protective hairstyles include braids, twists, and locks.

Notably, because the law will now define race to include any trait historically associated with race, it could have broader applications, such as protections for dialect and styles of dress.

Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Added to Anti-Discrimination Law

Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) protections against discrimination was expanded March 16, 2023,  to prohibit employment discrimination—by an employer with one or more employees­—based on an individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Of note, the state’s Civil Rights Commission already interpreted the ELCRA to include these classes, the signed legislation codifies (turns into law) their interpretation.

Under the amended act, these protected classes are defined as:

  • Gender identity or expression is having or being perceived as having a gender-related self-identity or expression whether or not it’s associated with an individual’s assigned sex at birth; and
  • Sexual orientation is having an orientation for heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality, or having a history of such an orientation or being identified with such an orientation.

Once effective, the ELCRA prohibits employers from discriminating against an individual because of their religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, height, weight, or marital status. Importantly, these protections apply to any part of employment, including hiring, pay, and its terms and conditions. For instance, employers cannot ask an applicant about, or require that they disclose on an application, their religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, height, weight, or marital status.

Court Upheld Existing Paid Sick Leave Laws

The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling that would have raised the state minimum wage and expanded the paid sick leave law in February 2023. The decision, which took effect immediately, prevents the minimum wage from increasing and keeps current wage and sick leave benefit requirements intact.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the 2018 amendments the state legislature made to the citizen initiatives for increased minimum wage and paid sick leave was constitutional and that the legislature did have the authority to adopt a pair of petition initiatives and amend their respective policies, instead of having the initiatives go to the ballot in November 2018.

HR Services Team
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