A Brief Summary of The Primary Missouri Law Prohibiting Employment Discrimination

The Missouri Human Rights Act In A Nutshell

In general, Missouri has some strong laws regarding human rights in employment and prohibiting discrimination.  These state laws are in addition to any applicable Federal laws, and both federal and state laws can be used in most situations.

What do Missouri’s employment discrimination laws prohibit?

Though Missouri has a significant number of laws preventing discrimination in employment, the most significant one is the Missouri Human Rights Act.  The MHRA makes it illegal for an employer with 6 or more employees to discriminate in employment in any way against an individual because of that person’s race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability or age (40 through 69).  The MHRA does not only apply to hiring and firing, and actually makes it illegal for employers to use any of these categories as  a factor for making any employment-related decisions.

Examples of some employment-related decisions covered by the MHRA include:

• who to hire;
• who to discipline, suspend, warn, put on probation, etc.;
• who to fire or terminate;
• how much to pay employees;
• how to give out work assignments;
• how employees are classified;
• transferring employees ;
• giving raises;
• giving out promotions;
• laying employees off;
• calling employees back from layoffs;
• job advertisements;
• recruitment;
• testing;
• use of company facilities;
• training and apprenticeship programs;
• fringe benefits;
• retirement plans;
• leave, or time off from work; and
• other terms and conditions of employment.

Illegal, discriminatory practices under the Act also include:

• harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, or age (but the MHRA only protects people between the ages of 40 and 69);
• retaliating in any way against a person for filing a complaint of discrimination;
• retaliating in any way against a person for testifying in any investigation or hearing;
• retaliating in any way against a person for opposing discriminatory practices; and
• denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race, religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability.

The MHRA Requires The Employee To Meet Strict Time Deadlines and File a Complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights Before Filing  a Lawsuit

If you believe you were discriminated against, the MHRA requires you to file a  timely complaint, called a “charge of discrimination,” with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights.   You are not permitted to file a lawsuit against the employer until the charge is filed with  the Commission and  they have been given at least 180 days to investigate.  Although the  Commission is overworked, sometimes they will on occasion actually file a lawsuit for you if they think  your situation is sufficiently serious.

Should You Sue Under Federal Law, State Law, Or Both?

Unfortunately, there is no  simple answer to this question.   Every employee’s situation is different.  Discrimination can be a particularly complex area of law and the laws you  might be able sue under depend on many different factors.  For  example, the MHRA applies to every employer with 6 or more employees,  but other employment discrimination laws  frequently use different numbers. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (a federal law) only applies to employers with 20 or more employees.

There are also many different  complicated strategy issues which need to be addressed.  For instance, one of the most important decisions is whether to make a claim under state law or under federal law,  because that will frequently affect which court handles your case.

The employee who is  making a claim is typically far better off having their case  heard in Missouri state court rather than federal court.   One reason is because federal judges are far more likely to (unjustly)  throw cases out of court before trial.  Another reason is that in federal court the person who is suing loses unless they get 100%  of the jurors (all 6 out of 6) to rule in their favor.    In Missouri state court, however,  the person who is suing wins if they can get 75% (9 out of 12)  to rule in their favor.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against by an employer, you should immediately contact an experienced attorney to represent you, because the statute of limitation deadlines set forth in the MHRA is extremely short, measured in days, not years.

Robert Curran is an experienced attorney representing employees who have been illegally discriminated against. He practices at Curran Law Firm and can be reached at 417-823-7500.  Please call for a free consultation to discuss your situation and an evaluation of whether you have a valid discrimination claim under the Missouri Human Rights Act.


This blog and website present general information about Robert Curran and Curran Law Firm, and is not intended as legal advice nor should you consider it such. To obtain legal counsel or legal services from us, we must first establish an attorney-client relationship with you, which will only do in writing.  Until you do so and receive an engagement letter, you have not hired an attorney and have not become a client of ours.  We cannot represent you until the firm determines that there is no conflict of interest and that it is willing and otherwise able to accept the new engagement.