Client Alert
October 28, 2015
Missouri Court of Appeals Rules Discrimination Based Upon Sexual Orientation is Not Prohibited by the Missouri Human Rights Act
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In a split decision, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not prohibited by the Missouri Human Rights Act ("MHRA"). The MHRA is similar to Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act. The MHRA prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, or disability, but it does not mention sexual orientation. In Pittman v. Cook Paper Recycling Corp., No. WD77973 (Mo. App. W.D., Oct. 27, 2015), the Missouri Cour
t of Appeals for the Western District affirmed the dismissal of an employment discrimination suit, holding that discrimination based upon sexual preference was not included in the statute, and could not be read into the statute. The Court refused to hold that discrimination based upon sexual preference was synonymous with discrimination based upon sex. The Court stated that the term "sex" in the statute referred only to gender, not sexual orientation. In other cases, parties have argued that discrimination based upon sexual orientation is the same as discrimination based upon sexual stereotyping, and it should be prohibited by civil rights statutes. In this case, the Court did not reach that issue because the argument was not raised. A three-judge panel decided the case, with one judge dissenting and another judge "reluctantly" concurring in the result only. Since there was a split among the judges, this case could be considered by the Missouri Supreme Court.
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T. Michael Ward
Managing Principal 
Steven H. Schwartz
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