A new front opened up recently in the fight over protections for LGBTQ employees in the workplace. A group called Fair and Equal Michigan launched a ballot initiative to broaden Michigan’s civil rights laws to include protection of people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender in employment, housing, and public accommodations. If the initiative is approved by the State of Michigan, Fair and Equal Michigan will need to collect approximately 340,000 signatures for its ballot initiative to be put before lawmakers. If enough signatures are collected and the lawmakers do not pass the ballot initiative, then the ballot initiative will be put to Michigan voters in late 2020 to determine whether it becomes law.
This ballot initiative is just one of several avenues where LGBTQ employees could see their rights expanded. The United States Supreme Court also heard arguments last October over whether Title VII, the federal anti-discrimination law, protects employees for discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity under the definition of “sex” discrimination. A decision from the Supreme Court is expected this summer. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and state lawmakers have also renewed efforts to amend Michigan’s anti-discrimination law, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, to include protection for LGBTQ individuals – although these efforts appear to have stalled out in the state legislature for the time being. Currently, more than 20 states and Washington D.C. provide some anti-discrimination protection for LGBTQ individuals in the workplace.
With all of this activity at the federal and state levels, 2020 is likely to provide Michigan employers more direction on an issue that increasingly has been in the public discourse in recent years. Miller Johnson will continue to monitor developments in this area of the law. Stay tuned to The Personnel Files for updates.