By organizing, engaging in persistent direct action, and calling upon our nation to live up to its promises of equality for all, the civil rights movement changed our culture and won the civil rights act of 1964. However, studies show that employment discrimination continues to deprive people of color and women of equal treatment. Holding employers accountable for discrimination is one way workers can fight back.
Respect: It’s illegal for an employer or co-workers to make offensive comments about your age, race, color, gender, national origin, or disability that go beyond teasing and occur frequently.
Equality: It’s illegal for an employer to treat you differently because of your race, national origin, skin color, age, gender, or disability. This means an employer can’t refuse to hire you, pay you less, punish you more harshly, refuse to promote you, or give you inferior work assignments because of any of those categories.
Accommodation: Your employers are required to make reasonable accommodations of your pregnancy, disability, or religious obligations when the accommodations are necessary for you to perform at work.
Freedom: Your employer cannot treat you differently based on the race, national origin, color, gender, age, or disability of your spouse, romantic partner, or friends. Nor can any employer treat you differently because you are a member of an ethnic or gender-based organization, or observe particular cultural practices (like clothing or grooming) related to those categories.
- If you are working in Kansas City, Missouri, it is illegal for an employer or co-workers to treat you differently due to your sexual orientation.
- No matter the outcome of any complaint you file, it is illegal for your employer to take an action in retaliation against you for reporting discrimination.
How do I know if I'm being discriminated against?
- Most employers won't tell you when they are discriminating so how do you know?
- Signs of discrimination are often found in how others are treated compared to you.
- For example, if you were denied a promotion, ask yourself if you are more qualified than the person promoted. Was that person of a different race, gender, etc.? This is potential evidence of discrimination.
- Also, have others been similarly overlooked for promotion like you have (e.g. other women, other immigrants, other black workers, other older workers)?
- It can also be helpful to look at who gave the promotion. For example, did a male manager give a promotion to another male over a more-qualified female?
- Other signs can come from your work environment. Is racially or sexually inappropriate language or other forms of racial or sexual harassment tolerated? Encouraged? Engaged in by management?
- If you are denied a job even though you are qualified, and the workplace lacks people who share your race, sex, age, etc., that too could suggest a problem. Many staffing and temp agencies have been criticized for precisely this problem.
How do I know if my employer retaliated against me?
- Once again, your employer probably won't tell you that you are being retaliated against so how do you know?
- If you made a complaint and you were demoted, fired, or mistreated soon afterward, that is a definite sign.
- Your employer may say you were fired, demoted or mistreated for something you did wrong. But if it isn't true or if other workers engage in the same behavior but aren't disciplined, that too could be proof of retaliation.
What do I do if I'm being discriminated or retaliated against?
- It is always best to begin consulting with an attorney early on. If you are a low-wage worker (employed or temporarily unemployed) you may contact us.
- If you have a handbook, look and see if there is a process for complaining to management about the situation. It is important to follow the procedure.
- Keep notes on what is happening and who is witnessing it. Keep all of your records.
- Preserve your legal rights. You only have 180 days in Missouri to file a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. If you do not do this, you lose your ability to sue in state court.
- Once the MCHR completes its investigation and provides you with a "right to sue letter," you have only 90 days to bring suit.
If you are a low-wage worker (employed or temporarily unemployed) and believe you are being discriminated or retaliated against, you can call us for a free consultation. We are a nonprofit organization that helps low-wage workers access the legal and organizational support they need to protect their rights and connects low-wage workers to employment lawyers when needed. (816) 278-1092.