Employment discrimination is the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of other people at work, because of their membership in a legally protected category such as race, sex, age, or religion. Each state has passed laws and rules to protect your workplace rights: this page covers Missouri employment discrimination. The purpose of Missouri Human Rights Act is to protect workers in Missouri from unlawful discrimination in employment. Read below to learn more about Missouri employment law and how the law protects you.
1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in Missouri?
The Missouri Human Rights Act makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, physical/mental disability, and age (between ages 40 and 70 only).
2. How do I file a discrimination claim in Missouri?
A discrimination claim can be filed either with the state administrative agency, the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have what is called a “work-sharing agreement,” which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. Filing a claim with both agencies is unnecessary, as long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you want it to “cross-file” the claim with the other agency.
The Missouri anti-discrimination statute covers some smaller employers not covered by federal law. Therefore, if your workplace has between 6 and 14 employees, you should file with the MCHR, as the EEOC enforces federal law, which covers only employers with 15 or more employees. If your workplace has 15 or more employees, you may file with either agency.
To file a claim with the MCHR, contact your closest office or the toll-free hotline listed below. More information about filing a claim with MCHR can be found at the MCHR website.
Jefferson City— Main Office
Toll-free Discrimination Complaint Hotline
To file a claim with the EEOC, contact your closest EEOC office below. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at the EEOC Filing a Charge page.
Kansas City Area Office
|St. Louis District Office
Robert A. Young Building
1222 Spruce Street
St. Louis, MO 63103
You may also wish to check with your city or county to see if you live and/or work in a city or county with a local anti-discrimination law, or "ordinance." Some cities and counties in Missouri (including Columbia, Kansas City, and St. Louis) have agencies that process claims under local ordinances and may be able to assist you. These agencies are often called the "Human Rights Commission," "Human Relations Commission," or the "Civil Rights Commission." Check your local telephone directory or government website for further information.
EEOC has launched an online service that enables individuals who have filed a discrimination charge to check the status of their charge online. This service provides a portal to upload and receive documents and communicate with the EEOC, allowing for a faster transmitting period. Those who have filed a charge can access information about their charge at their convenience, and allow entities that have been charged to receive the same information on the status of the charge. All of the EEOC offices now use the Digital Charge System. If you file on or after September 2, 2016, the Online Charge Status System is available for use. The system is not available for charges filed prior to this date or for charges filed with EEOC's state and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies. The system can be accessed at the EEOC website. If you do not have internet or need language assistance, you may call the toll-free number at 1-800-669-4000. For additional help, you may also call the toll free number to retrieve the same information provided in the Online Charge Status System.
3. What are my time deadlines?
Do not delay in contacting the MCHR or EEOC to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. To preserve your claim under state law, you must file with the MCHR (or cross-file with the EEOC) within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. To preserve your claim under federal law, you must file with the EEOC (or cross-file with the state agency) within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible. Yet if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your claim with the state and federal administrative agencies.
4. What happens after I file a charge with the EEOC?
When your charge is filed, the EEOC will give you a copy of your charge with your charge number. Within 10 days, the EEOC will also send a notice and a copy of the charge to the employer. At that point, the EEOC may decide to do one of the following:
- Ask both you and the employer to take part in a mediation program
- Ask the employer to provide a written answer to your charge and answer questions related to your claim, then your charge will be given to an investigator
- Dismiss the claim if your charge was not filed in time or if the EEOC does not have jurisdiction
If the EEOC decides to investigate your charge, the EEOC may interview witnesses and gather documents. Once the investigation is complete, they will let you and the employer know the result. If they decides that discrimination did not occur then they will send you a “Notice of Right to Sue.” This notice gives you permission to file a lawsuit in a court of law. If the EEOC determines that discrimination occurred then they will try to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer. If a settlement cannot reached, your case will be referred to the EEOC’s legal staff (or the Department of Justice in certain cases), who will decide whether or not the agency should file a lawsuit. If the EEOC decides not to file a lawsuit then they will give you a “Notice of Right to Sue.”
How long the investigation takes depends on a lot of different things, including the amount of information that needs to be gathered and analyzed. On average, it takes the EEOC nearly 6 months to investigate a charge. A charge is often able to settle faster through mediation (usually in less than 3 months).
5. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Missouri?
If your case is successfully resolved by an administrative agency, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney or file a lawsuit (to resolve your case, you probably will be required as to sign a release of your legal claims). If your case is not resolved by the MCHR or EEOC, you may need to pursue your claim in court. A federal employment discrimination case cannot be heard in court without first going to the EEOC, as detailed above, and having the EEOC dismiss your case. This process is called "exhaustion" of your administrative remedy. Similarly, before you can proceed with a lawsuit based on your state discrimination claim, you must file with the MCHR. (Please note that if the MCHR makes a finding of "no cause,"—a finding that your case is without merit—you are not allowed to go to court under state law without first appealing this determination.)
Because Missouri state law does not limit or cap the damages recoverable for a discrimination claim, many attorneys in Missouri choose to file employment discrimination cases in state court using federal and state law. However, most cases may be filed in either state or federal court. A case filed in state court using federal law may be subject to removal, which means that a defendant employer requests to move the case to federal court because it involves a federal statute, such as Title VII or the ADEA.
Once the EEOC issues the document known as “Dismissal and Notice of Rights” or “Notice of Right to Sue” (Form 161), only then can you file a case based upon your federal claim. A lawsuit based on your federal discrimination claim must be filed in federal or state court within 90 days of the date you receive the notice. (Be sure to mark down that date when you receive the notice.). After your case has been pending with the MCHR for 180 days, then you may request a similar “right-to-sue” notice from MCHR to file your Missouri claim in court, as long as the MHRC has not already issued a “no cause” finding in your case. A lawsuit based upon your state discrimination claim must be filed within 2 years of the date you believe you were discriminated against (an investigation by the MCHR does not delay this deadline), and no later than 90 days after your case is dismissed by the MCHR. These deadlines are called the “statute of limitations.” If you have received one of these agency notices, do not delay consulting with an attorney. If your lawsuit is not filed by the deadline, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case.