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Gay Employment Discrimination in Missouri
It ain’t easy being gay in Missouri where your employment rights are concerned. As a political easy target “class” of individuals, gay men and women have to constantly be concerned about direct or indirect actions against their employment due, at least partly, because of their sexual orientation.
You would think in 2017 that gay-bashing on the part of employers shouldn’t be a thing anymore. You would be wrong. You would think that hopefully a court could apply the Missouri Human Rights Commission protections to gay employees in Missouri. Wrong again.
You, my gay friends, are screwed if you are discriminated against in your employment because of your sexual orientation.
A recent case in Missouri explains what courts say about your protections as a Gay Missourian under our state law. The landmark case was Pittman v. Cook Paper Recycling (478 S.W.3d 479, Mo.App.W.D. 2015). Pittman was subjected to a lot of horrible, vulgar mistreatment on his job due to his sexual orientation. Downright nasty allegations are part of the record.
Read the case for yourself here: Pittman v. Cook Paper Recycling (478 S.W.3d 479, Mo. App. W.D. 2015) (Missouri Court web site direct link to the decision.)
SIDE NOTE:I personally know two of these judges on this Western District Court of Appeals panel, and let me personally attest to their compassion and character. If you had a case in front of the Court of Appeals, you would want these judges deciding it. I wholeheartedly believe that if these judges could have justified expanding the law in Missouri to cover sexual orientation, they would. The problem is with the law, not the judges.
However, even with allegedly horrible actions towards him, the trial judge dismissed the case because, the Court said, Missouri Law did not cover sexual orientation in it’s anti-discrimination statutes.
* The Court of Appeals agreed, and included the following observation, which sums up the law:
“The plain language of the Missouri Human Rights Act is clear and unambiguous. Employers cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of their “sex.” The clear meaning prohibiting discrimination based upon “sex” under the Missouri Human Rights Act intended by the Missouri legislature concerns discrimination based upon a person’s gender and has nothing to do with sexual orientation… Thus, sex discrimination occurs when a plaintiff’s sex is a contributing factor in an employer’s employment decision.(citation removed) Pittman does not allege that he was discriminated against or harassed because of his gender but alleges that he was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation.
In essence, Pittman’s petition is seeking a declaration that sexual orientation discrimination qualifies for protection under the Missouri Human Rights Act because it is tantamount to discrimination based on sex. We note, however, that, to even reach this reading of Pittman’s petition, we must liberally construe the petition because, [*483] as the circuit court wisely noted, the petition truly does not allege discrimination or harassment on the basis of “sex.” Pittman merely alleges that “[Cook Paper] caused the workplace to be an objectively hostile and abusive environment based on sexual preference.” (Opinion at page 483)
If you believe you were discriminated against because of your sexual-orientation, Missouri law has little to offer you in the form of protection. However, discuss your issue with an attorney to analyze if there is any other avenue to address the difficult situation and whether there may be other, more subtle forms of discrimination going on, like religion or gender.
FOR THIS WEB RECORD, Please know that I support inclusion and equality under all our laws, and it is disappointing my LGBTQ friends can’t enjoy the same protection under the law as I do.
Maintained by Attorney Phil Willoughby
Founded by Tim Willoughby, Esq. (1959-2013)
Phil is a Missouri employment lawyer who is licensed to practice in Kansas and Missouri, and primarily takes cases in Saint Louis and Kansas City. He is a member of the Missouri Bar Association and Kansas Bar Association. Additionally, he has practiced in the United States Federal Courts of Missouri in St. Louis and Kansas City. He has also practiced in the Kansas Federal District Court in Kansas City, Kansas.
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