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Employment Discrimination

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A person claiming employment discrimination must fall under a “protected class” of people. These protected classes vary from federal and state.

What is considered to be a “protected class” under federal law?

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender Identity
  • Immigration Status
  • Language
  • Family Responsibilities
  • National Origin
  • Pregnancy
  • Race
  • Religious
  • Sex/Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Genetic Information

Missouri claims fall under the Missouri Human Rights Act and handled by the Missouri Human Rights Commission (MCHR). In Missouri, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • National Origin
  • Citizenship Status
  • Sex/Gender
  • Disability
  • Age

When is it better to file with the MCHR over the EEOC?

The benefit of filing with the MCHR instead of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which handles federal cases is that the MCHR covers some smaller employers that are not covered by federal law. (Federal law only covers employers with 15 or more employees, but state law covers employers with 6 or more.) Additionally, the criteria for an employment discrimination case on the state level are less strict than the federal standard.

Age Discrimination:
Age discrimination can occur if you are 40 years or older and have been harmed by a decision that has affected your employment. (Employers are not allowed to hire, fire, promote, or decide an employee’s compensation based on their age.)

Examples of age discrimination:

  • You were not given a position because the employer wanted a younger-looking applicant.
  • You were fired in favor of retaining younger, less senior employees to be paid less than you.

Religious Discrimination:

Religious discrimination entails treating individuals in the workplace differently based on their religion, religious beliefs and practices, and/or their request for accommodation of their religious beliefs and practices (change in workplace policy.)

Examples of religious discrimination:

  • You were fired because you missed work to observe a religious holiday.
  • You were told you were in violation of the company’s dress code for wearing religious clothing such as a hijab.
  • You were forced to remove your hijab at work to comply with the company’s dress code even though other employees wear caps to work.

Can my employer prevent me from taking religious holidays off?

Employers are required to provide employees with “reasonable accommodation” that would allow you to engage in religious practices without interfering with your work obligations, except when this would impose an “undue hardship” on the employer.

Can I change the day of a job interview if it is scheduled on a day of worship?

Employers cannot schedule selection activities in conflict with a prospective employee’s religious needs.

Can I dress according to my religious beliefs at work?

If you ask your employer for a religious accommodation to wear, for example, a hijab at work, they are legally obligated to grant your request if it does not impose a burden or “undue hardship.”

What constitutes a discriminatory statement?

Examples of statements that are considered discriminatory:

  • Mocking someone for wearing religious clothing such as a hijab.
  • Ridiculing someone for refusing to eat pork or for eating halal.
  • Derogatory statements in regards to a person’s appearance.
  • Harassment regarding a person’s beliefs as a Muslim.

What should you do if you feel that you’re being discriminated against?

There are a few important steps that you should take:

  1. Report it to human resources.
  2. Keep detailed records of communication between yourself and your employer.
  3. Obtain paper copies of emails between yourself and your employer in case access is restricted following termination.
  4. If you are terminated for what you believe to have been a result of discrimination, contact an attorney for help in filing a claim.

Evidence of Discrimination

There are two types of evidence of discrimination: direct & circumstantial.

The best method for proving discrimination, it includes statements from supervisors that directly reference the action against you relating to your protected class status and verbal and written statements.

This is the most common type of evidence in employment discrimination cases. If a person does not have enough direct evidence, they must provide enough circumstantial evidence to allow jury to find that an employer acted in a discriminatory manner.

How to Counter an Employer’s Denial:

After establishing an initial presumption of discrimination, the law states that an employer must simply articulate or state the reason for your removal (whether or not it is accurate is not of importance.) Once the employer states a reason, your presumption of discrimination is gone and you will have to provide additional evidence to show that the reason provided is simply a cover-up for discrimination.

There are various ways to do so. For example, can you show that the reason stated:

  1. Is factually untrue?
  2. Is insufficient motivation for removal?
  3. Is less strong than using protected class as a reason for removal?

Important Deadlines for Filing a Claim:

State Law:
You must file a state claim with the MCHR within 180 days (approx. 6 months) of the date that the act of discrimination occurred.

Federal Law:
To preserve your claim under federal law, you must file with the EEOC within 300 days (approx. 10 months) of the date that the act of discrimination occurred.

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