"Right to Sue" for Employer Discrimination in Missouri

So your job search is over. You got the job. You update your LinkedIn status and Facebook page. Congratulations pour in from family and friends. Former school mates and colleagues message well wishes to you. You report to HR the next day. And then you’re escorted to start work with your new team. You're happy to meet everyone. But, notice no one there looks like you. You store that away for future reference because everyone genuinely seems to be glad you're there. And welcome you warmly. Everyone that is except for Bob.  

Bob is old school to put it kindly. He has preconceived ideas about what types of people should be hired for what jobs. You don't belong in your job in Bob's mind. Nor do any other minorities, women or LGBT.

It starts rather innocuously. "Build the wall on the southern border," Bob says. "They're sending over rapists and criminals," he intones. You think to yourself, "hmmm, it's never good policy to talk politics at work. But he's just quoting the president. So, I guess it's ok?" It gets worse. Bob openly uses racial, ethnic and sexist slurs at work. Not directed at you mind you, but extremely offensive nonetheless. You go to HR. "There's something about Bob," you say. "He uses inappropriate language all the time. I'd hate for it to be overheard by a customer." HR knows this about Bob. It's not the first time he's had to be spoken to about his apparent bigotry. "I'll take care of it," you're told. 

But it's not taken care of by HR or anyone else. It gets back to Bob that you reported it. And it gets worse and worse and worse, to the point when Bob directs a slur at you. That's a line you don't allow anyone to cross and tell him so. You return to HR and now you're perceived as the problem. Words like "not a team player" and "finding it difficult to adapt" and "not a good fit" are bandied about. You notice there is more criticism of your work whereas before you went to HR about Bob it was always considered to be stellar. You're no longer invited to meetings you know you should attend. It's talked openly about you moving on. “Maybe you’d be happier somewhere else,” you’re told. You know you're being discriminated against and your employer doesn't seem inclined to do anything about it. So, what do you do? Do you have the right to take your employer to court? Not yet you don't. 

If you work in Missouri and you want to sue your company for employer discrimination, you must first file a “Charge of Discrimination” affidavit with either the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Both administrative agencies cooperate with one another in the investigation of employer discrimination claims in Missouri. It’s your choice to file with either agency, the only exception being the MCHR has jurisdiction over employers with 6 employees or more and the EEOC has jurisdiction over employers with 15 employees or more.  So, if your employer has at least 6 but less than 15 employees, then you can only file with the MCHR. But, if your employer has 15 employees or more, you can file with either one you choose and request that it be cross-filed with the other. 

Your filing of the “Charge of Discrimination” affidavit initiates the investigation of your complaint against your employer by the MCHR and/or the EEOC.  In most cases the EEOC will not sue and instead issue to you either a “Notice of Right to Sue” or a “Dismissal and Notice of Rights.”  Both are referred to as “right to sue” letters (even though the investigation may be dismissed) and both give you the right to sue your employer for discrimination in federal court.  You only have 90 days to file your lawsuit after either notice or your right to sue expires.  The MCHR may also issue a “right to sue” letter that allows you to sue your employer in state court for discrimination. This “right to sue” letter also has a 90-day deadline in which to bring suit or your right to sue expires.

There are many laws that could affect your lawsuit, such as the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991 for federal violations, and the Missouri Human Rights Act for state violations.  You may want to add state claims to your discrimination lawsuit as well. So, there are many decisions you need to make such as what laws give you the best chances of redressing your complaint, what relief should you should seek, and whether to file your lawsuit in federal or state court.

If you work in Missouri and feel you’ve been discriminated against in the work place, do not delay in consulting an attorney. There are statutes of limitation that limit the time in which you can sue your employer. Also, if you have received either a “Notice of Right to Sue” or a “Dismissal and Notice of Rights,” do not delay in consulting an attorney. You have only 90 days from the receipt of either of those letters to file your lawsuit or your right to sue expires.  If you need assistance, you may wish to consult with experienced counsel at Cosgrove Law Group.