Michigan has long depended on the auto industry to support the state economy. Unfortunately, thanks to endemic financial and management problems at the “Big Three” auto-makers (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) as well as increased competition from carmakers overseas, Michigan has suffered more than its fair share of economic woe over the past decade. According to a 2008 estimate, the state’s population is about 10 million, but that number will no doubt decline as more and more people emigrate from Detroit to seek employment outside of the auto industry.

Of course, Michigan is by no means a monolith. In fact, the state is really two states in one: the “Lower Peninsula” and the “Upper Peninsula” each has its own culture and micro economy. The Bureau of Economic Analysis found that Michigan in 2004 had a gross product of around $370 billion. In addition to the automotive industry, Michigan supports manufacturing, military, mining, aerospace, and IT jobs. The state is also home to many educational institutions, including Michigan State and the University of Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights oversees the administration and enforcement of antidiscrimination policy. The MDCR grew out of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, which was forged in 1963 to ensure equal protection of citizens irrespective of their race, national origin, or religion. Pursuant to amendments in 1976, the Michigan Constitution added protections for other classes, such as gender, weight, age, marital status, disabilities (physical and mental) and arrest record. The MDCR sponsors a number of training and educational programs to help employers and employees alike understand the law and its implications for them. It operates regional offices throughout Michigan, at which disgruntled employees may file claims for harassment pursuant to the laws established by the Michigan Constitution and its amendments.

One of the biggest labor law issues facing the country in the coming years will involve figuring out how to provide fair protections to current and retired workers of Detroit’s teetering auto-companies. Many autoworkers put in their time at these companies and now rely on their pensions and health benefits to survive. In the event that Detroit’s carmakers file for bankruptcy reorganization, long held labor agreements may be renegotiated; in some cases, benefits may be taken away.

Michigan workers report a wide array of additional problems in the workplace, such as:

  1. Wage violations. Employers seeking to cut corners and maximize profits may engage in practices such as employee misclassification, time card falsification, and “off-clock” work to avoid paying workers what they rightfully owe them.
  2. Retaliation. Any employee witnessing or suspecting illegal employer behavior can report such tactics to management or the authorities. Organizations may not penalize them with reduced hours, less desirable or hostile working conditions, or any other punitive measures. If they do, they are likely breaking the law.

If your Michigan employer practiced discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage violations, or other unfair practices, you have the right to contact a local employment attorney. These individuals use their knowledge of state and federal regulations to help you fight for fair compensation.

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