What Does the Law Say?

 

Where is the law regarding sex discrimination in employment in Missouri found?

 

The law regarding sex discrimination is the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA). It can be found in the Annotated Missouri Statutes, Chapter 213 (Human Rights), section 055 (Unlawful Employment Practices).

 

To whom does the MHRA apply?

 

The law governs the behavior of employers who have six (6) or more employees, any person directly acting in the interest of an employer, and the state of Missouri. It also applies, in a more limited way, to labor organizations.

 

Under the MHRA, what is illegal?

 

It is illegal for an employer to do any of the following because of your sex:(1) to fail to hire you, to fire you, or to discriminate against you;
(2) to classify you in any way which interferes with your employment opportunities or negatively affects your status as an employee;
(3) to discriminate against you in admission to any training program;
(4) to print or circulate any statement, advertisement, or publication which expresses a limitation based on sex unless it is because of a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) (a practice that is reasonably necessary to the operation of the particular business, for instance, a requirement that only males work as restroom attendants in male restrooms); and
(5) to ask questions of job applicants which express any limitation based on sex unless it is because of a BFOQ.

It is illegal for a labor organization to do any of the following because of your sex:(1) to exclude or expel you from its membership or to discriminate against you in any way based on your sex;
(2) to classify you and other members in any way which interferes with your employment opportunities;
(3) to fail or refuse to refer you for employment; and/or
(4) to discriminate against you in admission to or employment in any training program.

 

What is sex or gender discrimination?

 

Any practice or policy that treats women unfairly simply because they are women constitutes sex or gender discrimination. Such acts can either be overtly degrading to women (such as sexual harassment) or simply apply differential treatment toward women.

 

What constitutes sex discrimination under the Missouri Human Rights Act?

 

Sex is defined as "any unfair treatment based on sex as it relates to employment." It is present when an employer engages in any of the discriminatory behaviors prohibited by the MHRA.

 

What is an "employee" under this law?

 

An employee is anyone who works for a private or state employer with six (6) or more employees. However, independent contractors are not considered employees under the MHRA.

 

What is an "employer" this law?

 

All of the following are considered "employers" under the MHRA:(1) the state of Missouri;
(2) any political or civil subdivision of the state of Missouri;
(3) any person employing six (6) or more people within the state; and
(4) any person directly acting in the interest of an employer.

It is important to note, however, that corporations and associations owned and operated by religious or sectarian groups are NOT considered employers under the MHRA.

 

Are women a "protected class"?

 

Yes, women are considered a protected class because of the history of discrimination against them. A statutorily protected class, such as women, is one that benefits from the protections of federal, state or local anti-discrimination laws.

 

Is there a federal law about sex discrimination?

 

Yes, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law which prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on sex. It was amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which guarantees equal benefits to pregnant women. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 guarantees equal pay for equal work.

 

How does the state law compare with federal in terms of coverage?

 

The MHRA protects women from more discriminatory activities than the federal law. The federal law only prohibits employers from discharging or otherwise discriminating against any individual with respect to her compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of her sex. The MHRA, however, provides broader protections. The MHRA covers employers who have six (6) or more employees, while the federal law only covers employers who have fifteen (15) or more employees. Furthermore, in addition to Title VII protections, the MHRA also prevents employers from: (1) segregating or classifying women;
(2) making inquiries into sex or expressing any limitation based on sex in applications for employment; and
(3) circulating any statement, advertisement, or publication which expresses any limitation based on sex.

 

Is it ever okay for my employer to treat or impact women differently because of their sex?

 

Yes. Your employer may treat you differently based on your sex if the different treatment is based on a BFOQ (bona fide occupational qualification), which means that the qualification is substantially job-related and reasonably necessary for the operation of the business. Your employer may also apply different standards based on seniority, merit systems, and/or professionally developed ability tests, as long as it isn't doing so with the intent to discriminate.

 

In a nutshell, what must I prove to win my case?

 

To prove a case of sex discrimination, you must show that the adverse employment actions taken against you were motivated by your sex, or that a company policy -- even if not intentionally discriminatory -- has the effect of negatively impacting women more than men. In any sex discrimination case, you will have the ultimate responsibility to persuade the judge or jury that you were discriminated against because of your sex.

 

What could my employer do to deny my allegations, and how do Irespond to their denials?

 

Once you make an initial showing that you were discriminated against for reasons related to your sex, your employer will then have the opportunity to offer valid, non-discriminatory reasons to rebut your claim. If the employer puts forth seemingly valid reasons which explain its actions, you will then have the opportunity to rebut these reasons and show that they are pretextual (i.e. not the true reasons for the discrimination) in order to prevail on your claim of discrimination.

 

Does it matter when the discrimination occurred?

 

Yes. You must sign and file a verified complaint in writing with the Missouri State Human Rights Commission ("the Commission") within one hundred eighty (180) days of the alleged act of discrimination. If the harassment happened more than one hundred eighty (180) days ago, you no longer have the option of filing a claim with the Commission. However, you have the option of filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for up to three hundred (300) days after the discrimination occurred. The EEOC is a federal agency which enforces federal law (i.e. claims that your employer has violated Title VII or the Equal Pay Act.) You may want to consider filing Title VII or Equal Pay Act claims in addition to or instead of claims that your employer has violated the MHRA. Both the Commission and the EEOC require that you exhaust administrative remedies before taking your case to court.

 

What options do I have if I my employer has fewer than 6 employees?

 

If your employer has fewer than six (6) employees you may not sue under the MHRA. However, you may be able to sue under tort claims, such as intentional infliction of emotional distress or wrongful termination. You can also try to implement out-of-court solutions, such as creating a here to learn about filing a claim with the Missouri State Human Rights Commission.

 

If I prove my sex discrimination claim, what kind of remedies am Ientitled to?

 

You may be entitled to equitable relief or monetary damages. For more information, please see Remedies.

 

 

 

Return to States

 

 

Legal Glossary