Missouri law, under the Missouri Human Rights Act, Chapter 213, RSMo., prohibits discrimination in the workplace. What this means, generally, is that employers in Missouri cannot fail to hire, terminate, or otherwise take “adverse employment action” against an employee because of that employee’s race, religion, color, national origin, sex, disability, ancestry or age, if over the age of 40 (“protected categories”).
Generally, absent a contract between the employee and employer, Missouri is an employee-at-will state, which means that employers can typically fire someone for any reason, so long as that reason is not discriminatory based on one of the above listed categories of persons. For example, it is generally not illegal for an employer to fire you just because they do not like you, or because they are just a bad boss.
Some examples of ways an employer can discriminate based on the protected categories is in hiring, firing, laying off, transferring, promoting, recalling workers, pay, benefits, disability leave, failing to accommodate someone because of their disability, or by other conditions or terms of that persons employment if they seem adverse as compared to other persons.
The Missouri Human Rights Act also prohibits harassment in the workplace due to one of the protected categories. For example, you cannot be harassed at work due to your race, even if you are not fired or your pay lowered. This applies to one of the most common forms of harassment, sexual harassment. If you feel you are being harassed at work by a coworker or coworkers, it is important to report the problem to the proper persons at your job to give your employer an opportunity to fix the situation.
The Missouri Human Rights Act also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for exercising their rights under the Missouri Human Rights Act. For example, if you complain to your human resources department about racial discrimination, they cannot retaliate against you for this complaint by firing you or demoting you. This also applies if you go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR)to make a complaint; your employer should not take adverse employment action against you for making the complaint.
If you feel that you have been discriminated in the workplace, it is imperative that you do not wait to take action, as there are strict time limits for pursuing a claim for employment discrimination. The first step that generally must be taken is to visit the EEOC or MCHR to file a complaint. At Ponder Zimmermann LLC, we help our clients through this process, but if they have already visited these agencies before visiting us in our office, we are happy to continue the process with them and help them pursue their claims.
The above is just a general overview of Missouri law, and how the law applies to each person is very case-by-case specific. If you think you have suffered from workplace discrimination, it is very important to contact an attorney to advise you.