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Steven Skahn represents employees in employment discrimination cases. One of his discrimination cases, Graham v. Michigan Department of Corrections, resulted in an Ionia County jury awarding 3.2 million dollars to his four clients.

Employment discrimination case can only be pursued when an employer discriminates against an employee for an unlawful reason. Most employment in Michigan is “at will” employment. This means that if an employee does not have a contract of employment, union or otherwise, either side to the employment relation can end the relationship at any time for any reason.  The exception to this is that the employer cannot end the relationship for an unlawful reason. It is unlawful for an employer to terminate an employee because of such things as the employee’s race, gender, age, religion or national origin. If the employee has asserted a claim of being discriminated for reasons such as these, the employer is prohibited from retaliating against the employee for asserting their rights.

An employer also cannot retaliate against an employee for asserting rights under other laws as well. The Whistleblower’s Protection Act protects employees from discrimination when they have reported violations of law to a public body. It is also unlawful to retaliate against employees for asserting rights under other laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Workers are also protected from sexual harassment in the workplace. If a worker is being sexually harassed and complains to management, and management allows the harassment to continue, then the employer can be held liable in damages to the employee. Additionally an employer can for a sexually hostile work environment when management knows the environment exists and is offensive to one or more employees and allows it to continue.

There are several Federal laws which prohibit job discrimination based upon a number of factors:

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 protects men and women who perform subastatially equal work in the same place of employment from gender based wage discrimination
  • ADEA - the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects individuals who are 40 years of age and olderADA - the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (as amended) prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilitiesboth in State and Local governement, and in the private sector
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government
  • GINA - the Genetic INformation Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 prohibits employment discrimination based on genetic information about an applicant, employee, or former employee
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1991 provides monetary damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination

Discrminatory practices prohibited by the above laws include:

  • Hiring and Firing
  • Compensation, Assignment, or Classification of Employees
  • Transfer, Promotion, Layoff, or Recall
  • Job Advertisements
  • Recruitment
  • Testing
  • Use of Company Facilities
  • Training and Apprenticeship Programs
  • Fringe Benefits
  • Pay, retirement plans, and disability leave
  • Harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, genetic information, or ageretaliation against an individual for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in an investigation, or opposing discriminatory practices
  • Employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group, or individuals with disabilities, or based on myths or assumptions about an individual's genetic information
  • Denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race, religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability

Title VII also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group

National Origin Discrminiation – It is illegal to discriminate against an individual because of birthplace, ancestry, culture, or linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group.

A rule requiring that employees speak only English on the job may violate Title VII unless an employer shows that the requirement is necessary for conducting business. If the employer believes such a rule is necessary, employees must be informed when English is required and the consequences for violating the rule.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires employers to assure that employees hired are legally authorized to work in the U.S. However, an employer who requests employment verification only for individuals of a particular national origin, or individuals who appear to be or sound foreign, may violate both Title VII and IRCA, verification must be obtained from all applicants and employees. Employers who impose citizenship requirements or give preferences to U.S. citizens in hiring or employment opportunities also may violate IRCA.

An employer is required to reasonably accommodate the religious belief of an employee or prospective employee, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship.

Sexual Harassment – This includes practices ranging from direct requests for sexual favors to workplace conditions that create a hostile environment for persons of either gender, including same sex harassment. (The "hostile environment" standard also applies to harassment on the bases of race, color, national origin, religion, age, and disability.)

Pregnancy Based Discrimination – Pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions must be treated in the same way as other temporary illnesses or conditions.

Statements or specifications in job notices or advertisements of age preference and limitations. An age limit may only be specified in the rare circumstance where age has been proven to be a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ), discrimination on the basis of age by apprenticeship programs, including joint labor-management apprenticeship programs, anddenial of benefits to older employees.

An employer may reduce benefits based on age only if the cost of providing the reduced benefits to older workers is the same as the cost of providing benefits to younger workers.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against in the workplace for any of the above reasons, contact Steven L. Skahn to set up a meeting to discuss your case.