Filing a Discrimination Claim - Missouri

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 http://www.dolir.state.mo.us/hr.

Jefferson City Main Office
P.O. Box 1129
3315 West Truman Boulevard
Jefferson City, MO 65102-1129
Phone: (573) 751-3325
Fax: (573) 751-2905
TDD: (573) 526-5091

Kansas City
4049 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 150
Kansas City, MO 64111
Phone: (816) 889-5100
FAX: (816) 889-5107
TDD: (816) 889-5106
Sikeston
108 West Center
Sikeston, MO 63801-3040
Phone: (573) 472-5320
FAX: (573) 472-5321
TDD: (573) 472-5223

St. Louis
906 Olive, Suite 320
St. Louis, MO 63101
Phone: (314) 340-7590
FAX: (314) 340-7238
TDD: (314) 340-7803
Toll-free Discrimination Complaint Hotline (messages checked weekly): (877) 781-4236
Relay Missouri:
Voice: (800) 735-2466
TDD: (800) 735-2966

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 http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/howtofil.html.

Kansas City Area Office
400 State Avenue
Suite 905
Kansas City, KS 66101
Phone: 913-551-5655
TTY: 913-551-5657
St. Louis District Office
Robert A. Young Building
1222 Spruce Street
Room 8.100
St. Louis, MO 63103
Phone: 314-539-7800
TTY: 314-539-7803

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.

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. 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.