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The basics of Missouri sexual harassment laws

Missouri, like the federal government, prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Missouri encapsulates its anti-harassment laws in the Missouri Human Rights Act. The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations enforces all the terms of the MHRA, including sexual harassment. The MHRA is a broadly drafted law that: lays out who is bound by its provisions, the prohibited conduct and potential penalties to both violators and employers. This article will briefly explore the MHRA and how it may apply to you.

The MHRA affects only employers with six or more employees, including "temp agencies" and other similar quasi-employers. The MHRA is also much broader, prohibiting sexual harassment and discrimination in housing and lending and other activities that involve the general public. But, this article will only focus on the employment aspect of the law. The MHRA generally prohibits discrimination or harassment based upon sex in hiring, firing and other employment activities. It specifically prohibits:

  • Harassment based upon gender.
  • Harassment or discrimination predicated on pregnancy or other related medical conditions.
  • Sexual harassment.
  • Discrimination in giving out compensation.

Gender-based harassment or discrimination is any action that is based upon gender; it can overlap with sexual harassment and exist independently of it. This behavior includes slurs, obscene gestures, epithets and other actions that are offensive.

Employers and co-workers are not permitted to harass or discriminate based upon pregnancy, recent childbirth or other related medical conditions. This means that your boss cannot fire you, hand-off projects or treat you differently because you are pregnant.

Sexual harassment can take the form of: requests for favors or predicating employment or promotions on sexual favors, unwelcome advances, verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature. These actions constitute unlawful harassment when either: the conduct creates an intimidating or hostile work environment or submission to the behavior is predicated as a condition of employment, compensation, hiring and other employment activities or benefits

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, then you may want to speak to a lawyer. Both the federal government and Missouri mandate that you have the right to work in an environment free from sexual harassment. Don't let an intimidating boss or co-worker prevent you from exercising your right to a safe workplace.

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