Labor and Employment

Laws Against Employment Discrimination in Missouri

By Lisa Guerin, ​J.D., Boalt Hall at the University of California at Berkeley
Missouri employees are protected from workplace discrimination based on certain characteristics.

Employees in Missouri are protected from workplace discrimination based on certain traits, such as ethnicity or sex. Congress and the Missouri legislature have decided that these traits, called protected characteristics, are not a fair basis for employment decisions—including who to hire, who to fire, and how much to pay employees. Below, we explain your rights under the state and federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination, including which employers must comply with the laws. (For more on this topic, see our employment discrimination and harassment page.)

Federal Laws Banning Employment Discrimination

Federal laws—including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act—protect employees in all 50 states against discrimination based on:

  • race
  • color
  • religion
  • sex
  • pregnancy
  • national origin
  • age (applies only to employees who are 40 years of age or older)
  • genetic information, or
  • physical or mental disability.

These federal laws make it illegal for employers of a certain size to discriminate in all aspects of employment, including hiring, benefits, promotions, pay, discipline, and termination. You are protected from discrimination if you work for a private employer with at least 15 employees (or 20 employees, for age discrimination).

Government employees are protected from discrimination, too. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies to all federal, state, and local government employers. For other types of discrimination, all federal government employers are covered, and state and local government employers are covered if they have at least 15 employees.

Missouri Laws Banning Employment Discrimination

The Missouri Human Rights Act also prohibits workplace discrimination and covers smaller employers. Private employers with six or more employees, and all state employers, may not make employment decisions based on any of the following characteristics:

  • age (40 through 69 years old only)
  • sex
  • race or color
  • national origin
  • religion
  • disability, or
  • AIDS/HIV status.

A separate provision of Missouri law makes it illegal for employers to fire, refuse to hire, or otherwise disadvantage employees or applicants because they use lawful tobacco or alcohol products while off duty. However, this law does not give employees a right to sue the employer for violating their rights.

Agencies That Enforce Discrimination Laws

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the government agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting workplace discrimination. The EEOC website provides details on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the primary federal law that prohibits employment discrimination, as well as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other federal laws. See Laws Enforced by EEOC for details. See our article on how to file an EEOC claim or visit the EEOC’s website for more information.

In Missouri, the Human Rights Commission, part of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, enforces the Missouri Human Rights Act. You can find more information on the Missouri Human Rights Act, as well as information on the process of filing a complaint, at the Employment Relations Division website.

Finding an Employment Law Attorney in Missouri

If you believe you have been discriminated against at work, you should talk to an experienced Missouri employment lawyer. A lawyer can assess your situation, explain the laws that might apply, and evaluate the strength of your claims. A lawyer can also advise you on how to proceed, including filing a complaint or lawsuit, and what damages might be available if you win.

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