Missouri is one of a number of states that does not include protections for the LGBTQ community in terms of civil rights issues such as workplace discrimination. That, however, could change as the Missouri Supreme Court will decide whether the Missouri Human Rights Act should extend beyond race, religion, nation of origin, sex, disability, and age.
Legislative attempts to extend anti-discrimination protections to sexual orientation and gender identity have proven a difficult process. Conservative legislators have routinely struck down attempts to afford the same protections to gays as other members of protected classes. Now, the courts will weigh in on the question of whether sexual orientation and gender identity should be protected under the MHRA.
Should a Transgender Boy be Able to Use the Boy’s Locker Room?
For each Supreme Court decision, there is a case that precipitated the issue. In this instance, it was a lawsuit brought against the Blue Springs school district in 2014 on behalf of a transgender boy identified only as R.M.A. The Kansas City school district updated their records with the boy’s new name and allowed him to participate in boys-only gym classes. They would not, however, budge on the issue of whether or not he was allowed to use the boy’s bathrooms and locker room.
His mother sued, but the school district sought to have the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that the MHRA does not cover gender identity or sexual orientation. The case does not specifically address employment rights, but since the school district used the MHRA as the grounds for dismissal, the plaintiffs had a right to appeal that decision. The motion to dismiss was granted by the circuit court and then again on appeal. It has since made its way to the Missouri Supreme Court where Missouri’s highest court will determine if MHRA protections should extend to gay and transgender students and workers.
Does the Court Have the Right to Extend Legislative Protections?
Both the circuit and appellate courts granted the motion to dismiss on the basis that the courts do not have the power to extend the current law to protect those who are not otherwise named in the MHRA. Nonetheless, there is a precedent for gay individuals winning suits against employers in Missouri based on sex and gender discrimination.
The Supreme Court could decide that workplace protections against sex discrimination can easily extend to LGBTQ workers by default. In 2017, an appellate court made a decision in favor of Harold Lampley who argued that he was fired and harassed because he did not conform to typical male stereotypes. Lampley is gay, however, and the Missouri Commission on Human Rights initially rejected his claim. They have since appealed the decision to the Missouri Supreme Court.
The question is not one of whether the law is right or wrong to exclude the LGBTQ community from human rights protections, but whether or not sex discrimination applies to the LGBTQ community as well. The decision could come as early as this week.
Have You Been Denied Employment or Harassed in the Workplace?
If so, HKM Employment Attorneys of Kansas City can help ensure your case is heard. Give us a call at 816.607.4691and we can start discussing your case today.