Sexual Harassment is prohibited by State and Federal Law. Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, MCL 37.2101, et seq., provides that unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex includes sexual harassment, which means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
1. submission to the conduct or communication is made a term or condition ... to obtain employment;
2. submission to or rejection of such conduct or communication by an individual is used as a factor in decisions affecting the individual's employment; and
3. the conduct or communication has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's employment or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment environment.
See MCL 37.2103(i).
Michigan courts recognize two types of sexual harassment: (1) quid pro quo harassment, where an employee's submission to or rejection of sexual conduct or communications is used as a factor in decisions affecting that employee's employment; and (2) hostile environment harassment, where the sexual conduct or communication creates an offensive or hostile work environment for the employee.
An employee must meet five necessary elements to establish a case of hostile environment sexual harassment:
(1) the employee belonged to a protected group;
(2) the employee was subjected to communication or conduct on the basis of sex;
(3) the employee was subject to unwelcome sexual conduct or communication;
(4) the unwelcome sexual conduct or communication was intended to or did substantially interfere with the employee's employment or created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment; and
(5) respondeat superior.
See Radtke v Everett, DVM., et al, 442 Mich 368, 382-83 (1993).
Respondeat superior is a Latin term that describes a doctrine in tort law that makes making an employer liable for the wrong of an employee if it was committed within the scope of employment.
An example of quid pro quo sexual harassment would be a supervisor making sexual advances towards a subordinate and then terminating the subordinate employee after she rebuffed the advances. An example of hostile environment sexual harassment would be a company that failed to address complaints about pornographic pictures in the work place.
A Federal law known as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also makes sexual harassment of employees unlawful in the Michigan. In general, claims under Title VII are filed in Federal court and Claims under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act are filed in state court. Before a Title VII claim may be filed in federal court, the affected employee must first file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. State cases may be filed without first filing a charge with the EEOC or the State equivalent, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.
If you feel like you are a victim of sexual harassment, read and follow your employer's handbook or personnel policies about who to complain to about the harassment and make a written complaint. If the employer does not address your complaint and the harassment continues, contact the EEOC, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, or give Bos & Glazier a call. We provide a free phone consultation to employees with questions about sexual harassment or wrongful discharge.