Missouri Supreme Court issues two new discrimination decisions

March 4, 2019

The Missouri Supreme Court issued two decisions on February 26, 2019, relating to sex or gender discrimination claims brought under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA).   In Lampley v. Missouri Commission on Human Rights, SC 96828, the Court held that a gay man’s claim that he was discriminated against for failing to display “stereotypical” male behaviors is included within the Act’s prohibition on sex discrimination.

The Court held that a second plaintiff could bring a MHRA claim based on discrimination and harassment she suffered due to her association with the first plaintiff.

The case expressly does not decide whether discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited under the law, but instead found that the plaintiff’s claim was based on “sexual stereotyping.” The Court found that, because sexual stereotyping was one way in which a plaintiff could prove sex discrimination, the MCHR should not have administratively closed his complaint without giving him right to sue letter.

In R.M.A. v. Blue Springs School Dist., SC96683, the Court considered a transgender student’s claim that the school district, a “place of public accommodation,” discriminated against him by failing to provide him with access to locker rooms and a restroom that match his gender identity.  The Court finds that the student stated a claim for gender discrimination under the liberal standard required to overcome a motion to dismiss, in which all of the plaintiff’s allegations are taken as true.  This is because public schools are considered “places of public accommodation” which have to make their facilities equally available to students without regard to protected categories like gender, race, and disability, and because the plaintiff alleges that he was discriminated against because of his sex, male.  The case does not discuss what level of proof would be required on this issue at trial.

Discrimination cases continue to be some of the most heavily disputed cases in the law. Employment law generally, and discrimination claims in particular, continues to be a dynamic and rapidly-changing area of the law. It is essential to obtain legal advice as soon as possible if you think that you might have a discrimination claim or if such a claim is filed against you.

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