Area of Law:
In the state of Missouri, the laws governing racial discrimination in the workplace are fairly straightforward. In addition to the federal Civil Rights Act, which covers the rights of workers throughout the U.S., Missouri also has its own Human Rights Act prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of skin color, race, and ethnicity. If you feel you have been discriminated against at work or have been asked to take part in a policy that promotes racial discrimination, you can file a claim at either the state or federal level. The Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) handles racial discrimination claims at the state level, while the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles claims at the federal level.
Before you proceed with an official claim, however, you may want to explore other avenues for settling your case. For example, if your company is large enough to have an HR department, speaking to the HR representative is one way to bring your grievances to light. It's possible that once the matter is out in the open, steps can be taken to resolve the situation so that racial discrimination incidents don't occur in the future. Not every case can be settled so easily, however. For any number of reasons, you may feel uncomfortable to speak to your HR department, or your company might not even have one. If there is no one in a managerial position with whom you feel you can speak, then it's time to think about filing a formal discrimination complaint.
If you do decide to file a complaint, it's important that you don't wait. Both the MCHR and EEOC operate under strict statutes of limitation that govern the amount of time you have to file a claim. For both agencies, the time limit is 180 days from the date of the incident in question. You should keep in mind, however, that there may be additional legal deadlines that you are up against. Therefore, if you want to avoid having your case dismissed for missing a deadline, you should try to file your claim as soon as possible.
While most racial discrimination claims can be filed either in state or federal court, many lawyers in Missouri prefer pursuing complaints via the state statutes. At the federal level, the EEOC only handles complaints that deal with employers who have more than 15 employees, whereas at the state level, the MCHR can handle cases where the employer has as few as 6 employees. Also, if you are filing a complaint, you may find that your local MCHR office can handle the investigation more quickly and efficiently than the nearest EEOC office. Your lawyer can advise you as to which agency would be best for handling your particular case.