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 The Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) is a government-appointed agency that “investigates and resolves discrimination complaints and works to prevent discrimination through educational programs that promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws.” Their mission is to support the United States Civil Rights division and uphold various civil rights laws and constitutional amendments—protecting Michigan residents from discrimination against race, color, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age, marital status, etc.  

The MDCR handles discrimination complaints in employment, housing, public accommodations, public service, law enforcement, and education. If you’re a victim of discrimination or have a civil rights–related issue, you can contact the MDCR by filing a complaint through their online portal or by calling 800-482-3604. It may be in your best interest to hire an employment law attorney, as the complaints process can be difficult. The trusted attorneys at Michigan Legal Center will do everything necessary to protect your interests and rights. 

Michigan Department of Civil Rights Complaint Process 

In order to have a viable complaint, you must notify the MDCR of a violation within 180 days. The MDCR complaints process is rigorous and thorough, involving several steps to ensure a reasonable decision is made. The following information outlines each step of the complaint process per the State of Michigan Department of Civil Rights.  

First Contact 

The first step in the complaints process is for an individual to contact the MDCR with any questions or civil rights–related issues they may be experiencing. The department can be reached via email, phone, mail, TTY, or in person. This is only an initial contact designed to help the department address or resolve any allegations before filing an official complaint. 

Formal Complaint 

If the MDCR considers the complaint to be time-sensitive and within their jurisdiction, the department will properly exercise its power through proceeding with a formal complaint. The individual pursuing the complaint is known as a claimant. The claimant will be asked to sign an official document in presence of a notary public. The notarized document will then be filed in the department’s docket system and the claimant will be sent a docket number assigned to their case. The respondent (the opposing party) will be presented with a copy of the document, detailing the claimant’s allegations.

The documents served to the respondent indicate the amount of time that the respondent has to answer the complaint. Typically, they will have a minimum of 14 days in which they either must agree to mediate or establish a mutually acceptable resolution.


If the parties agree to mediation, the mediation process will begin immediately with the assistance of a licensed and trained mediator. The mediator will act as a facilitator to help the parties through negotiations, as well as making the discussion as effective as possible by identifying issues, avoiding communication obstacles, and exploring alternatives. They may also assist in constructing a contract between the parties.


Both parties may be invited to attend a fact-finding conference administered by an MDCR investigator. The face-to-face meeting is designed to further explore the possibility of a voluntary settlement agreed to by both parties or through an investigation. In the meeting, each party can present their case and evidence in support of their position. If no resolution is made, the MDCR will continue to process the complaint by conducting an investigation. 


During the investigation, both parties will be given the chance to provide evidence to support or refute that the allegations be investigated based on the complaint. The MDCR may undergo several different investigative procedures such as a site visit, additional claimant interviews, and supplemental witness interviews. 


After the investigation, the civil rights investigator on the case provides a report that contains a finding formed upon a comprehensive analysis of the facts and evidence. If there is insufficient evidence to back the claimant’s complaint, the investigator will direct an exit interview with the claimant and the case will be dismissed. If the claimant is not satisfied with the investigator’s decision, a petition for reconsideration may be filed. 


If there is enough evidence to support the claimant’s accusations, the respondent will be summoned to participate in a conciliation conference. The conference is a private meeting between the respondent, their representatives, and the department, where there will be an open discussion about the complaint. The conciliator will offer a proposed solution and if the respondent accepts, then the complaint can be closed. This is the final attempt to resolve the complaint before moving forward with a legal hearing. 

Legal Review/ Public Hearing

When conciliation is ineffective, the MDCR may issue a formal charge, requiring the parties to attend a public hearing. One or more civil rights commissioners or a hearing referee will oversee the hearing. Witnesses are required to declare a sworn testimony and the Federal rules of evidence apply. The claimant and the department bear the burden of proof. 


Commission Decision 

After the hearing is held and there is a confirmation of the referee’s report, the Civil Rights Commission will form an appropriate order—either through the dismissal of the complaint or imposing that remedial actions be taken on behalf of the respondent. Before the commission makes a final order, they may request that the circuit court establish an appropriate order. 


If either party disagrees with the final decision made by the Civil Rights Commission, they may request the circuit court to review the case. 

Contact a Michigan Employment Law Attorney for Help 

At Michigan Legal Center, Attorney Christopher Trainor and his associates are well versed in employment law focused on employees’ rights. If you believe your job has adversely, unlawfully, or unrightfully discriminated against you, our team can help investigate whether your employer has engaged in any illegal conduct. Our Michigan employment attorneys are readily available to answer any questions or concerns you may have on employment law issues. 

Let Michigan Legal Center be your go-to firm for legal guidance. Contact us for a free evaluation or discover how our employment attorneys can assist you in recovering your losses by calling 248-886-8650 or completing a contact form today. We’re here for you. 

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