If you’ve applied for a job that you have the qualifications for but an employer has denied your application on an unclear basis, then it’s possible you may have experienced sexual discrimination in the workplace. Such discrimination is illegal and may result in penalties to business owners or employees. But discrimination on the basis of sex can often be challenging to try in court. In Missouri in particular, the Missouri Human Rights Act explicitly prohibits this type of discrimination.

What Is the Legal Definition of Sexual Discrimination?

In the legal field, sexual discrimination is an action that occurs when an individual is treated unfavorably or less favorably than another on the basis of sex. This type of discrimination can encompass a wide variety of subsets, including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy or related conditions, or stereotypes about your sex.

Specifically, discrimination on the basis of sex is typically tried as an employment issue. Civil rights laws under Missouri state legislation give all people legal protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sex or gender. Furthermore, these legal protections are often related to other nondiscrimination laws supported by the state.

What’s the Difference Between Discrimination and Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a huge issue in the workplace, particularly for women who are harassed by people who are in positions of power or authority over them. Sexual harassment involves sexual behavior, advances, or comments that create a hostile or unsafe work environment. In the workplace, sexual harassment can make it difficult for women to complete work and feel comfortable; yet, because a woman may need her job, she may not be in a position to file a complaint or quit to stop the harassment.

Discrimination on the basis of sex is different. Although harassment and discrimination can certainly go hand-in-hand, discrimination focuses more on fair opportunities. Your employer is legally obligated to give you and your coworkers the same opportunities for employment, wages, and promotions regardless of your sex or gender. If your employee is not giving you fair opportunities, then you are likely experiencing discrimination.

What Are Common Examples of Discrimination?

Discrimination based on sex can look like a lot of things and may even depend on your specific circumstances. For example, if you find out that you and your coworker who have the same job title or the same job burdens are being paid drastically different wages, you may be facing discrimination. If a male coworker who has less experience or qualifications than you is promoted, then you may be facing discrimination. Other examples include:

Pregnancy and Related Conditions

Many women are discriminated against because of pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions (like breastfeeding), maternity leave, or even the fact that, as a woman, you may become pregnant in the future. If you have lost the opportunity for employment or a promotion because your ability to bear children has made your employment unappealing to your employer, then your nondiscrimination rights are being violated.

It’s unfortunately very common for women to experience pregnancy-related discrimination. From not providing enough time for maternity leave or proper insurance coverage for pregnancy-related health concerns to losing job opportunities because you may be pregnant one day, women have faced this type of sex discrimination for decades. You are entitled to the same rights as a man, regardless of your pregnancy status now or in the future.

Sexual Orientation

Your sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are all protected under state law. If you have lost equal opportunities for employment due to your perceived sexual orientation, then you may have endured sex discrimination by a current or potential employer. Legally, your employer is obligated to hire the person best fit for a job, regardless of their visible orientation, gender identity, or personal gender expression.

Sex Stereotypes

There are some stereotypes about sex that are still unfortunately prominent in the workplace. For example, men are thought to be better leaders, and women are thought to be too “emotional” to handle positions of authority, which are two stereotypes that greatly influence employers. If you believe sex stereotypes have prevented you from obtaining a job, raise, or promotion, then you may be entitled to compensation.

How Do You Pursue Justice for Sex Discrimination?

If you have been discriminated against on the basis of your sex, you have a few legal strategies you can pursue to seek justice. To be clear, people who have been discriminated against will need to seek legal action through the Missouri court system, not necessarily through human resource complaints. For that, you may need the advice of expert legal counsel. Some important information to keep in mind includes:


When it comes to discrimination cases, the timing of your petition is incredibly important. You will be filing your complaints under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MCHR), which gives you 180 days after the alleged incident to coordinate with legal counsel. After 180 days, you will lose your ability to file a complaint on that specific incident. In discrimination cases, acting quickly is a vital step.

Complaint of Discrimination

The Complaint of Discrimination is the formal document that will be filed with the MCHR. The state department of labor has resources on how to determine whether or not your case qualifies for discrimination. Your legal team will help you assess your case and file your complaint with MCHR to proceed with your case.


You will need to prove your discrimination, which means you may need to have supporting documentation for your claim. Documentation could include direct evidence from the HR department of your work or pattern and practice evidence, such as the hiring practices over several years where female employees were passed over repeatedly. You may be able to use circumstantial or inference evidence to support your claim. Your legal team will help you gather the evidence required to make your legal claim.

What Does Justice Look Like?

When most people file a complaint about sex discrimination, all they are really seeking is justice for their mistreatment. But what does that justice look like? In general, your justice will be determined by the specifics of your case. For example, if you sought a raise or were passed over for a promotion, you may be entitled to compensation like back pay on the wages you would have earned. If you lose your job because of discrimination or sexual harassment, you may also receive monetary compensation for your wages.

Sometimes, your monetary compensation may include the value of benefits you are owed (such as health benefits), or the commissions, bonuses, or tips you would have earned if not for your discrimination. However, it’s important to remember that justice for your discrimination case may not mean you are awarded a promotion or a raise after your case is won.

Legally, sexual discrimination is a way to describe discrimination actions from employers that ultimately result in the loss of earning potential or opportunities. Discrimination on the basis of sex can refer to your gender identity or expression, your sexual orientation, or health concerns related to your sex, such as pregnancy. To learn more about how a lawyer can help with your sexual discrimination case, please contact Holman Schiavone in Kansas City, MO today.