Sexual Harassment and Sex Discrimination – Overview Of Michigan Law


Under Michigan law, sexual harassment is considered a form of illegal discrimination. It usually occurs when someone – man or woman – makes an unwelcome sexual advance. This offensive and unwanted conduct creates an uncomfortable, intimidating, and “hostile” workplace environment.

Legal Definition of Sexual Harassment

Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act identifies two broad categories of sexual harassment – quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

According to Section 103 (h) of this Michigan law, sexual harassment means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature when:

  1. Submission to such conduct or communication is made a term or condition either explicitly or implicitly to obtain employment, public accommodations or public services, education, or housing.
  2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct or communication by an individual is used as a factor in decisions affecting such individual’s employment, public accommodations or public services, education, or housing.
  3. Such conduct or communication has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s employment, public accommodations or public service, education, or housing environment.

Applying these employment discrimination laws to real-life situations is complicated. If you or a loved one has experienced employment discrimination, it is important to talk with a Michigan employment discrimination lawyer with experience in Michigan and federal employment law.

Sexual Harassment – Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Quid Pro Quo is a Latin phrase meaning “this for that.” In other words, it involves an exchange or bargain between two parties. Under Michigan law, any exchange that involves sex in the employment setting is illegal.

Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment may be the most explicit form of harassment. Frequently, an employer or supervisor with authority over a worker demands that she or he provide sexual favors in exchange for continued employment and/or promotion.

Obviously, this creates a terrible situation for the worker. No one should be treated in this way. You need an attorney who will fight to protect your rights.

Sexual Harassment – Hostile Work Environment

Hostile environment sexual harassment happens in a workplace, when an employer, supervisor, or co-worker does or says things that make the victim feel very uncomfortable because of his or her sex. The harassment occurs, even if no one makes a specific demand for sexual favors. Instead, the victim suffers harassment because she or he has to try to work in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.

To prove a claim for hostile work environment, the harassment must be severe and persistent. Evidence of an occasional offensive remark or sexual joke is not enough. Courts often treat these infrequent comments as just “stray remarks.”

An employer is legally responsible for the harm caused by a hostile work environment, if the employer failed to take prompt and adequate remedial action, after it had reasonable notice of the harassment. Generally, the victim of harassment should report it to management promptly, to give the employer notice and an opportunity to investigate the problem.


Complex legal issues arise in claims for hostile environment caused by sexual harassment. However, you do not have to put up with this form of workplace discrimination.

Sexual Harassment The Victims

Although the majority of victims are women harassed by men, other types of unlawful sexual harassment include:

  • Men sexually harassed by women
  • Women sexually harassed by women
  • Men sexually harassed by men

Sexual harassment victims range from young to old, from executives to unskilled workers, from married to single, and from attractive to unattractive. Often, it is unclear why a certain person is singled out. From a legal standpoint, the aggressor’s reason for targeting a victim is not relevant. The harassment is unacceptable — and illegal.

Sexual harassment victims subjected to any type of unlawful workplace harassment should talk with a Michigan employment discrimination lawyer with experience in Michigan and federal employment law.

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Marya Sieminski


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