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Audit finds discrimination claim investigations overly delayed

On Behalf of | Apr 4, 2024 | Civil Rights

As a worker in Michigan, you have certain state and federally recognized protections. Amongst them is the right to be free of workplace discrimination. Yet, all too often employers act in a discriminatory way that cause protected individuals to miss out on key employment opportunities, lose income, and even be terminated from their job.

No one should be unfairly subjected to those outcomes, which is why the law allows you to take action against your employer in hopes of finding accountability and compensation, and you can contact the Michigan civil rights agency so that they can conduct an investigation to see if the state’s civil rights laws have been violated. You can also take action if you’ve been discriminated against in other areas of your life, such as securing housing.

Audit finds massive delays at state civil rights agency

Sadly, though, a recent audit of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights found that the agency is taking far longer to investigate claims of workplace discrimination than hoped. The agency has previously indicated that it wants to conclude these investigations within six-months, but that they are taking 19 months on average to finalize. The audit, which took about a year-and-a-half to finalize, found that only 8% of discrimination reports were fully investigated within six-months. Less than a third of cases were investigated within a year.

What’s causing delays?

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights agreed with the audit’s finding that discrimination investigations are taking far too long to complete. The agency chalks delays up to inadequate staffing, citing that they don’t have enough workers to handle the more than 2,400 open complaints that they currently had open at the time of the audit. This has led to claims not being assigned to investigators in a timely fashion, claimants not being interviewed quickly, and not starting other initial investigatory steps swiftly enough. In fact, the audit found that a significant number of cases, nearly half, went about four months without seeing any action.

Can the issue be fixed?

State officials hope so. The agency’s budget is set to increase by approximately 50% in the next fiscal year, an increase of about $10 million. Much of the agency’s increased funding will be used to hire more than 50 additional staff who can handle the backlog of discrimination cases.

The audit also recommended that the agency implement better processes for tracking complaints and where they’re at in the investigatory process, as many telephone complaints and interviews were incorrectly logged by state employees. Some email complaints even wound up in junk email boxes, meaning that they were never read by state agency officials. The agency has indicated that it will embrace these recommendations, and that employees will receive additional training on how to appropriately handle discrimination claims.

What does this mean for you?

The state’s civil rights agency investigates discrimination in all areas, including in the workplace. If you’ve filed a claim with the state, then you might continue to wait for a thorough investigation to be completed.

That said, you shouldn’t wait to take legal action if you’ve been negatively impacted by workplace discrimination or some other sort of discrimination. You can still fight to hold those who discriminated against you accountable and to recover compensation for any harm that’s been caused to you.

To succeed on your claim, though, you’ll need compelling evidence and a clear story about what’s been done to you and how it’s negatively impacted you. You’ll also need an understanding of the law so that you know how to frame your arguments. Your attorney can help you with all of that so that despite the state’s shortcomings you can still advocate for your interests and ensure that your voice is heard.