Ethnic Discrimination

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“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

–Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus” (engraved on the Statue of Liberty)

As of 2006, the immigration population in Michigan exceeded 620,000, which amounts to 6% of the total population.  Unfortunately, those who have risked their lives and families to come to the United States often experience bias and prejudice in the workplace and beyond.   Ethnic or “national origin” discrimination has become prevalent in the work force, housing and in public accommodations.

The Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) prohibits discrimination against persons based upon ethnicity or national origin.  A national origin discrimination claim may be established by direct or circumstantial evidence.  Direct evidence is that which, if believed, requires the conclusion that unlawful discrimination was at least a motivating factor in the employer’s actions.  If you have direct evidence of discrimination, your employer would be required to prove that you would have been terminated (or subject to the adverse employment action) regardless of whether it was motivated by impermissible discrimination.

If you do not have direct evidence of discrimination, you may still have a claim if you can prove the general elements of a discrimination claim.  However, once these elements have been met, your employer can justify its actions if it can articulate a legitimate non-discriminatory basis for its decision to terminate.  Many times, cases will turn on the factual evidence developed during litigation.  However, it is important from the onset to keep accurate records and documentation of discrimination by your employer.

The ethnic intimidation statute, MCL  750.147b, provides in relevant part:

A person is guilty of ethnic intimidation if that person maliciously, and with specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, gender, or national origin, does any of the following:

(a) Causes physical contact with another person.
(b) Damages, destroys or defaces any real or personal property of another person.
(c) Threatens, by word or act, to do an act described in subdivision (a) or (b), if there is reasonable cause to believe that an act described in subdivision (a) or (b) will occur.

Regardless of the existence or outcome of any criminal prosecution, a person who suffers injury to his or her person or damage to his or her property as a result of ethnic intimidation may bring a civil cause of action against the person who commits the offense to secure an injunction, actual damages, including damages for emotional distress, or other appropriate relief.  A plaintiff who prevails in a civil action may recover both of the following:

(a)        Damages in the amount of 3 times the actual damages described in the statute or $2,000.00, whichever is greater;

(b)       Reasonable attorney fees and costs.

If you have been the victim of ethnic discrimination or intimidation, you need to be represented by an expert with the knowledge, skill and trial experience to win your case.  Call attorney Vince Colella toll free at 1.800.MUSTWIN or at 248.945.0100.

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