Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act covers reverse discrimination, too

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act protects Michigan employees from reverse discrimination: Those who can show they were denied promotions or other opportunities because of non-membership in a racial group can and do recover damages. The following case serves as a reminder that employment practices must be truly colorblind.

Recent case: Kenneth Sciotti, who is a white male, worked as a file clerk for the city of Detroit and got two automatic promotions. Then his career stalled, even as he continued his education, earned the respect of his co-workers and supervisors, and sought out promotions in the probation department.

Finally, he sued, alleging reverse discrimination. At trial, he showed that he was qualified for the promotions he applied for and that those promotions went almost exclusively to black candidates. In the 24 years that the probation department had existed, there was only one white probation supervisor. In addition, black candidates filled all of the supervisory positions that Sciotti applied for.

A jury awarded Sciotti $424,000 in damages plus $148,000 in attorneys’ fees. The Court of Appeals of Michigan refused to overturn the decision. It concluded Sciotti had plenty of evidence of reverse discrimination. (Sciotti v. City of Detroit, No. 266160, Court of Appeals of Michigan, 2007)

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