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Michigan Race Discrimination Law

An employer must not refuse to hire or recruit, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against an individual with respect to employment, compensation, or a term, condition, or privilege of employment, because of... race, color, [or] national origin.

Federal Racial Discrimination Law - Title VII - Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals against employment discrimination based on race or color, as well as national origin, sex, or religion. This law applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local government agencies, employment agencies, and labor organizations.

An employer violates Title VII by discriminating against any employee or job applicant based on the individual's race or color, in hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, job training, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment.

No employment decision can be based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or the performance of members of a particular racial group. Title VII also prohibits intentional discrimination and neutral policies unrelated to the job, which disproportionately exclude minorities.

In addition, an employer cannot deny equal employment opportunity, because of a person's marriage to, or association with, an individual of a different race; because of membership in, or association with, ethnic based organizations or groups; or because of attendance or participation in schools or places of worship generally associated with a certain minority group.

Race-Related Characteristics and Conditions

Federal law prohibits discrimination based on a characteristic often associated with persons of a particular race, such as skin color, hair texture, or facial features, even though not all members of that race have the same characteristic.

Under most circumstances, an employer may not discriminate because of a condition that generally affects one race. Thus, most employers could not exclude all individuals with sickle cell anemia (which predominantly affects African-Americans), or prevent workers from having beards (which could be a greater hardship for African-American men who have a predisposition to pseudofolliculitis barbae (severe shaving bumps)). However, these types of employment rules would be lawful, if and only if, the employer can show that different treatment for persons with the condition is job-related and essential for business operations.


Harassment based on race, color, or national origin violates Title VII. Ethnic slurs, racial "jokes," offensive or negative comments, pictures, or graffiti, or other verbal or physical workplace conduct based on race or color, constitutes unlawful harassment, if the conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment or interferes with an individual's work performance.

Segregation and Classification of Employees

An employer violates Title VII by segregating or physically isolating workers of a particular race or color from other employees or customers. In addition, employers may not assign workers according to race or color. For example, Title VII prohibits assigning primarily African-Americans to predominantly African-American establishments or geographic areas.

It is also illegal to exclude members of one group from particular jobs, or to group or classify positions or employees, so that members of the protected group generally are placed in certain jobs. The practice of coding applications or resumes to designate an applicant's race or color, by either an employer or an employment agency, also is evidence of unlawful discrimination.

Pre-Employment Inquiries

Asking job applicants for information that indicates race or color strongly suggests that an employer will use it as a basis for hiring. Therefore, if members of minority groups were excluded from employment, the request for this pre-employment information could be evidence of discrimination.

It is possible that an employer legitimately wants information about the race or color of employees or job applicants, to use for affirmative action purposes. In that situation, the employer can guard against improper use of the information with "tear-off sheets" with the identification of an applicant's race. After the applicant completes the entire job application, the employer should remove the "tear-off sheet" and use the remainder of the application form in the hiring process.


Finally, it is unlawful for anyone to retaliate against an individual for opposing discriminatory employment practices, for filing a discrimination charge, or for testifying, or participating in any way in a Title VII investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit.

Attorney Marya Sieminski joined the Law Offices of Sam Bernstein in 2003. She is admitted to practice law in Michigan state courts and in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated magna cum laude from Wayne State University Law School. Marya has worked as a trial lawyer for 10 years and exclusively represented victims in personal injury litigation and in workers compensation claims. She also was appointed by the Governor to serve on the State of Michigan Workers Compensation Qualifications Advisory Committee.




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