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Understanding sexual harassment in the Michigan workplace

Michigan employees have a right to feel safe at their workplaces -- they should never have to endure harassment on the job. That does not mean that sexual harassment and other types of discriminatory behavior have simply disappeared from Michigan workplaces, however. Today, we provide some guidance for those employees who find themselves suffering from discriminatory harassment.

First, let's talk about some examples of sexual harassment and other discrimination. You might be a victim of sexual harassment if a supervisor, coworker or even a client sexually assaults you. The harassment may be far more subtle, however, such as asking for sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or other benefit. Hostile work environments are created when other employees joke around and make sexual remarks. You may have even been fired because you refused a supervisor's sexual requests.

Additional forms of discriminatory harassment include actions based on race discrimination. African American, Latino, Asian, Native American and Middle Eastern populations are often victimized by insensitive comments. Those workers may even be denied advancement because of race discrimination. The same holds true for religious discrimination, especially in light of recent worldwide events -- Muslim American women, for instance, may have a legal case if their employer demands that they remove their hijab, or religious head covering.

So, what can you do if you are the victim of harassment? There are steps you can take to make sure that the harassment ends. You should speak to your supervisor about the harassment -- unless your supervisor is the harasser. In that case, human resources is the right choice. Your organization may conduct an investigation by asking for evidence of the harassment. If you are not seeing results from your company with regards to the workplace discrimination, it may be time to take legal steps or consult agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Source: Michigan Department of Civil Rights, "Sexual and Other Forms of Discriminatory Harassment," accessed Nov. 12, 2015

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