Persons with Disabilities
Individuals with disabilities also enjoy protection under the law. Under both state and federal law, a person with a health condition serious enough to be considered disabled cannot be discriminated against in employment provided that they can still perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. Certainly, if they can do the job without any special accommodation at all, then their disability cannot be used against them. If the employee requires accommodation, however, then the question becomes whether accommodations are reasonable or if they are an unfair burden to the employer. This is a complex area, but generally speaking, reasonable adjustments to the work setting, such as widening the spaces between desks so that a wheelchair-bound employee can wheel through the aisle, will be required. However, a massive redesign of the entire workspace might not be. In Michigan, the courts have been more and more reluctant to require that the job itself be altered to accommodate the worker.
Remedies for Violation of Anti-Discrimination and Other Employment Laws
A lawsuit can usually be brought when an anti-discrimination law or whistleblower law is violated. However, in many cases, particularly with claims that can be brought in federal court, it is necessary to file an administrative complaint, such as a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for workplace discrimination, before a lawsuit may be filed. There are strict time limits, known as statutes of limitation, on how long the employee has to file a suit if the administrative agency doesn’t elect to pursue the case.
Remedies most often include back pay, which is the pay lost between the time of the discrimination and the time of judgment is rendered. In some cases, the court has the power to order an employer to reinstate the employee who has been wrongly fired or demoted. When reinstatement is not feasible, front pay may also be awarded, meaning a projection of lost future income. Some statutes also provide for an award of attorney’s fees on top of other damages.
Statutes of Limitation
Employment claims under Michigan state law generally have a three-year statute of limitations, but the statute of limitations under federal law can be much shorter. A federal claim based on discrimination in employment must be brought before the EEOC within 180 days unless the state in which the violation occurred has its own anti-discrimination law. In this case, the federal statute of limitations is 300 days for filing the EEOC claim. Whether the time period is 180 or 300 days, the clock begins to run from the date the employee has notice the discrimination is going to occur, not from the date that the actual discrimination begins. Thus, if the employer announces on November first that older employees will be forced to retire starting the following January, the clock runs from the date of the announcement on November 1, even though no action begins for two more months.
Violations of the Federal Equal Pay Act must be brought within two years for an unintentional violation and three years for an intentional violation.
Call Seikaly, Stewart & Bennett for a No-Obligation Consultation
If you would like additional information on employment law and discrimination, please contact the Michigan employment law attorneys at Seikaly and Stewart for a no-obligation phone call or office appointment. Call 248-785-0102 or fill out our contact form to arrange your consultation.