How Do I File A Claim?

 

How do I file a state claim with the Missouri Human Rights Commission (MHRC)?

 

You may file a claim with the MHRC in person or in writing by filling out a charge of discrimination form within one hundred eighty (180) days of the last incident of sex discrimination you experienced. To initiate a complaint, contact the MHRC either by phone, mail, or email. Be sure to remember that you must file a complaint with 180 days; otherwise the MHRC cannot provide assistance in your discrimination claim. Please visit the MHRC website or call (573) 751-3325.

 

How do I contact the Missouri Human Rights Commission?

 

You may contact the MHRC by phone, email, or postal mail. The MHRC has five state offices with the main office located in Jefferson City. You may call the MHRC at (573) 751-3325. You may email the MHRC at mchr@dolir.mo.gov, or write or visit one of the five state offices. You can find addresses and locations of state offices by visiting the MHRC website.

 

Against whom can I file a claim?

 

Under the MHRA you may file a claim against your employer. An employer under MHRA is defined as the state or any political or civil subdivision of the state; any person who employs six (6) or more persons within the state; any person acting on behalf of an employer; and any employment agency, labor organization or joint labor-management committee who violates any provision of the MHRA. Corporations and associations operated by religious or sectarian groups are not considered employers under the MHRA and claims of discrimination may not be filed against them.

 

If I choose to file a claim, what is expected of me?

 

Upon filing a claim, the commission will commence an investigation into your case. You will be asked to provide information regarding your allegation(s), including names of the people involved, their addresses, and any other relevant information. Moreover, you should expect to describe the nature of the discrimination to commission members or their staff. You should be prepared to provide information on any witnesses who would be able to help shed light on your claim. You will want to keep track of any records, emails, or phone conversations you have with any of the parties involved in your discrimination case. From the moment the commission receives your complaint and charge letter, the commission will do its best to engage in settlement/conciliation. Throughout this process, you will be expected to maintain privacy from the public with regard to information relating to your complaint, unless both you and the opposing party agree on releasing the information to the public.

 

How long will the process take?

 

There are some elements to your claim that are subject to strict time limitations which help give you a sense of how long a procedure might take. However, there are other parts of the process that have no time limit and give no clear indication of how long the process might take. First, your complaint to the MHRC must be filed within one hundred eighty (180) days of the last date of discrimination. If one hundred eighty (180) days have passed since initiation of your complaint with the MHRC and the commission has not completed its investigation or conciliation/settlement, you may write the commission for a right to sue letter. The commission will usually issue a right to sue letter within thirty (30) days of receiving your request. Once you receive your right to sue letter you will have ninety (90) days to commence a civil action in court, and must do so no later than two (2) years of the alleged date of discrimination. Once a civil action commences in a court, it is not uncommon for cases to last a number of years.

 

Do I need an attorney?

 

You do not need an attorney to file a complaint and charge of discrimination with the MHRC. After investigating the claim, if the commission finds that probable cause exists and settlement fails, a hearing will be scheduled to make your employer answer to your claims. During this process the commission prosecutes the claim. You may participate with or without an attorney. However, if you would like to intervene at this juncture in order to present testimony or amend a complaint, it is highly advisable to hire an attorney. Intervening is not required because once the commission determines probable cause exists, they will take up your case in the interest of eliminating discrimination.

 

Where do I find an attorney?

 

One resource to help you find an attorney is the Missouri Bar's Lawyer Referral Service. You may also be able to find an attorney through the National Employment Lawyers Association .

 

What if I can't afford an attorney?

 

The >!----> Missouri Bar's Legal Services may be able to help prosecute your claim, however, the MHRA process does not require you to have an attorney to successfully prosecute your claim.

 

What will my attorney need from me?

 

Your attorney will require your patience, trust, honesty, and candor. Your attorney will need to know all the details about the discrimination you have faced from your employer. She has an ethical obligation to maintain attorney-client confidentiality — that means, everything you say to your attorney remains private. Your attorney may also ask you to recall names, documents, dates, and even times as you reconstruct the events surrounding the discrimination. The more you can help in this effort, the easier it will be for her to ultimately help you.

 

Do I have to contact the Missouri Human Rights Commission?

 

Yes. In order to pursue a claim under the MHRA, you are required to contact the MHRC. In order to pursue a court action, you will need to obtain a right to sue letter from the MHRC.

 

Can I sue my employer directly without going through the Missouri Human Rights Commission?

 

You may sue your employer without going through the MHRC only for actions NOT related to the MHRA. The MHRA protects Missouri citizens who have confronted discrimination in the workplace. No other set of laws in Missouri deal more directly with workplace discrimination. In order to file a complaint regarding discrimination in the workplace, the law you would be invoking would be the MHRA. As a result, to sue your employer for protections you are afforded under Missouri law, you must go through the MHRC which enforces the MHRA.

 

Who will investigate my complaint?

 

The commission is made up of eleven (11) members and employs a host of staff members who enforce the provisions of the MHRA and help in investigation and settlement of complaints. Once the complaint is filed, the executive director of the commission, with the assistance of the commission's staff, will investigate the complaint.

 

What do I do after my initial contact with the MHRC?

 

After your initial contact where you formally file a charge of discrimination, you will await the commission's investigation, determination of whether probable cause exists, and conciliation. You may be asked to submit more information or provide greater detail about the discrimination. You will want to gather all relevant records and maintain confidentiality throughout the process.

 

What happens after I submit my claim?

 

After you submit your claim, the commission will investigate your claim of discrimination and assess whether probable cause exists within one hundred eighty (180) days. If after one hundred eighty (180) days the commission has not yet made a determination, you may write the commission requesting a right to sue letter in order to take your case to court. If the commission determines that your case is without merit, it will dismiss the complaint and you will be able to appeal. If the commission finds that probable cause for discrimination exists, then the commission will endeavor to eliminate the discrimination through conference, conciliation, and persuasion.

 

What happens if the investigators determine that no "reasonable" or "probable" cause exists on which to base a claim?

 

The complaint is dismissed. However you may appeal the decision to by filing a petition in the circuit court of the county of proper venue within thirty days after notification of the dismissal. The appeal can be made either in Cole County or in the county of your residence.

 

What happens if the investigator determines that "reasonable" or "probable" cause exists on which to base a claim?

 

If the Director of the commission determines after the investigation that probable cause exists for your claim of discrimination, the executive director will endeavor to eliminate the unlawful discriminatory practice complained of by conference, conciliation and persuasion, and will report the results to the commission. If the issue cannot be adequately resolved by the methods described above, the commission may institute a hearing where your employer would have to answer to the complaint in person. If reasonable cause exists, but you wish not to have the MHRC resolve the discriminatory action through conciliation, you may write the commission requesting a right to sue letter in order to sue in circuit court.

 

Can I sue my employer?

 

Under the MHRA, you may sue your employer if your employer employs six (6) people or more in the state and engages in discriminatory conduct prohibited by the MHRA. You may only sue your employer after you have obtained your right to sue letter from the MHRC.

 

What is a "right to sue" letter?

 

A right to sue letter is a letter informing you that you may commence a civil action in a state circuit court where the unlawful discrimination is alleged to have occurred. In Missouri, you may write the commission requesting a right to sue letter after one hundred eighty (180) days from filing the complaint if the commission has not completed its administrative processing. Once you receive your right to sue letter, you have ninety (90) days to bring suit in circuit court. Once you receive a right to sue letter, your case will no longer be pursued or investigated by the MHRA.

 

Can I appeal a decision of the Commission?

 

Yes, you may appeal a decision of the Commission by filing a petition in state circuit court in Cole County or in the county in which you reside.

 

Can I file a federal claim of employment discrimination as well? If so, how?

 

Yes, but you don't have to. The MHRC and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have a work-sharing agreement whereby if you file with either the MHRC or the EEOC, either organization will automatically forward the information to the other agency. However, federal and state law have a few differing requirements. The EEOC enforces federal law. Under federal law, you may not sue an employer who employs fewer than fifteen (15) persons. Similarly, if you filed with the EEOC, lived in Missouri, but were employed in another state, the EEOC will not share the information with the MHRC. To obtain a right to sue letter from the EEOC, you must request one separately from a right to sue letter from the MHRC.

 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of filing a federal claim over a state claim?

 

The practical differences between filing a state and federal claim are not significant. Either the MHRC or EEOC will investigate your claim, attempt to resolve the issue through out-of-court means, or provide you with an option to go to court. If the claim goes to court, your attorney may choose, for strategic reasons, to pursue a claim in federal or state courts based on selection of judges, perhaps, or length of trials. Also, the MHRA does not place any specific caps on damages awarded whereas the EEOC has a strict guideline of damages that may be awarded in proportion to size of the employer.

 

 

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