If you are an employee in Missouri who has experienced discrimination at work due to your sexual orientation or gender identity, you have legal rights and protections, and you can file a claim for discrimination at the federal and state levels. However, the process can be difficult and time-consuming, and the wisest course of action is to get a gender discrimination attorney in the Jackson County, Missouri area on your side as soon as possible.
Legal Protections Against Discrimination
The federal law in this context is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, particularly Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Until fairly recently, it has been unclear whether ‘sex’ under Title VII included sexual orientation and gender identity. This changed with the landmark Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County in 2020.
The Court held that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity falls under the prohibition of discrimination “because of sex.” This interpretation means that under federal law, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In Missouri, the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) is the primary state law that addresses discrimination. Historically, the MHRA did not explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected categories. However, the interpretation of federal law per the Bostock ruling has influenced the application of anti-discrimination laws at the state level, including in Missouri.
Filing a Discrimination Claim
If you believe you have been discriminated against at work because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, you have the right to file a discrimination claim. The process generally involves the following steps:
Documentation and Evidence Gathering
Before initiating a formal complaint, gather evidence. This might include emails, witness statements, or any other documents that can support your claim of discrimination.
Filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Under federal law, you are required to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC before you can bring a lawsuit in federal court. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws, and filing a charge with them is a prerequisite for further legal action. The EEOC will investigate the claim, which may involve interviewing witnesses and reviewing documents provided by you and your employer.
In addition to or instead of the EEOC, you can also file a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR). The MCHR enforces the state’s anti-discrimination laws, and filing with the MCHR can be an alternative or a simultaneous process with the EEOC filing.
Mediation and Resolution Efforts
Both the EEOC and the MCHR will typically attempt to resolve discrimination claims through mediation before they escalate to litigation. This process involves a neutral mediator who helps both parties reach a voluntary, negotiated agreement.
If the matter is not resolved through mediation, and the EEOC or MCHR finds that there is reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred, you may receive a ‘right to sue’ letter. This letter permits you to file a lawsuit in federal or state court.
Representation by a Gender Discrimination Attorney in Jackson County, Missouri
Facing discrimination in the workplace can be a challenging and emotional experience, not to mention a complicated one when it comes to the legal process, so it’s important to seek support and guidance. Getting skilled legal representation from a gender discrimination attorney in the Jackson County, Missouri area is highly recommended.
Practical Steps in Filing a Discrimination Claim
Initial Assessment and Legal Consultation
Your first step should be a thorough assessment of your situation. Document every incident of discrimination, including dates, times, locations, and the names of individuals involved. This documentation is crucial in building your case. Consult quickly with a gender discrimination attorney who can provide a professional evaluation of your case and tell you the next best steps.
Once you have decided to proceed, you need to file a formal complaint with the EEOC or MCHR. This complaint should detail the instances of discrimination you have faced. Your attorney can assist in drafting this complaint to ensure it accurately represents your experience and complies with all legal requirements so nothing is rejected on a technicality.
The Investigation Process
After filing your complaint, the EEOC or MCHR will conduct an investigation. This may involve interviews, requests for additional documentation, and possibly a visit to your workplace. You and your attorney should cooperate fully with the investigation, providing any necessary information and evidence.
Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution
Both the EEOC and MCHR offer mediation programs as an alternative to a formal legal process. Mediation involves a neutral third party who helps both you and your employer reach a voluntary settlement. This can be a quicker and less adversarial process than going to court, and it’s usually worth pursuing. If you have concerns over your safety or other issues that might make mediation programs problematic, talk with your lawyer right away.
Preparation for Litigation
If mediation is unsuccessful, and the investigation finds reasonable cause to believe discrimination occurred, you may proceed to litigation. This involves preparing for a trial, which includes gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and building a legal argument. Your attorney will, of course, play an even more critical role at this point.
In court, both sides will present their case. The trial may involve witness testimony, cross-examinations, and the presentation of evidence. If you win your case, the court may award remedies such as compensation for lost wages, damages for emotional distress, and changes in workplace policies. However, if the court rules against you, you have the option to appeal the decision.
Key Things to Know
The Burden of Proof
In discrimination cases, the burden of proof initially falls on you, the employee. You must demonstrate that your sexual orientation or gender identity was a motivating factor in the discriminatory action taken against you. This can be shown through direct evidence, like discriminatory remarks, or indirect evidence, such as a pattern of the employer treating LGBTQ+ employees less favorably.
Retaliation Is Illegal
It’s important to know that retaliation against an employee for filing a discrimination claim is illegal under both federal and state laws. If you experience adverse actions like demotion, salary reduction, or even termination after filing a claim, this could constitute a separate charge of retaliation, providing another layer of legal protection. If you suspect retaliation, be sure to talk to your lawyer.
Company Policies Matter
Many companies have their own anti-discrimination policies that may offer additional protections beyond federal and state laws. Review your employer’s handbook or policies to understand how they address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. These policies can sometimes offer a basis for a claim, especially if the company has not adhered to its own standards.
Empowerment through Legal Action
If you face discrimination in the workplace based on your sexual orientation or gender identity in Missouri, there are legal avenues available to you, and having skilled legal representation is important to getting through this complex process effectively and seeing justice done. For expert help, contact us at Holman Schiavone, LLC