The ACLU of Missouri has filed a lawsuit against the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) for failing to protect Missourians from sex-based discrimination at work.
In August, the MCHR formally closed a complaint filed by Chris Lawson for sex-based discrimination by his employer in 2015. Lawson, a transgender man, was treated with hostility by his employers because he did not act or appear in accordance with expectations of his gender.
“All Missourians deserve the right to employment free from discrimination based on sex stereotypes,” said Tony Rothert, ACLU of Missouri Legal Director. “By closing Mr. Lawson’s complaint, the Missouri Human Rights Commission has continued its policy of excluding transgender Missourians from the protection against sex discrimination that other Missourians enjoy.”
When he worked at Dollar General, Lawson told his employer he preferred “he/him/his” pronouns. Lawson was told by the human resources department that the department had been instructed by corporate not to use either male or female pronouns when referring to Lawson. He was also told by the human resources department that he could not use the male restroom and would receive a written reprimand if he did so.
No other male or female coworker was banned from using the restroom associated with their sex nor had any other coworker been told that the gender-specific pronoun of their preference would not be used.
Lawson filed a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, which was created by statute to, among other purposes, eliminate and prevent discrimination in employment because of sex by implementing the Missouri Human Rights Act.
In August 2018, Executive Director of MCHR Alisa Warren closed Lawson’s charge, asserting that the commission “lacks jurisdiction over this matter because sexual orientation is not protected by the Missouri Human Rights Act.”
Lawson’s sex-based discrimination claims are firmly under the jurisdiction of MCHR. The lawsuit asks for Lawson’s claim to be reopened and investigated.
In 2007, the ACLU sued the Missouri Commission on Human Rights in a similar case. In Fenner v. Missouri Commission on Human Rights, the Cole County Circuit found that MCHR was wrong in closing the sex-based discrimination charge that Meghan Fenner, a trans woman, filed against her employer.
"The core dignity of transgender and gender non-conforming people across Missouri must be respected and protected,” said Jeffrey A. Mittman, ACLU of Missouri Executive Director. “Our constitutional rights are designed to make sure the laws are inclusive for everyone, so all Missourians can to live and thrive. The ACLU will continue to defend the principles of equality under the law.”