Monday, January 26, 2009

Hostile Work Environment Not Necessarily Actionable Under Missouri Human Rights Act

In Gilliland v. Missouri Athletic Club, the Supreme Court of Missouri recently held that a hostile work environment is not actionable under the Missouri Human Rights Act unless the hostility is directed at the victim because of his or her race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age or disability.

The plaintiff in the case, Tracy Gilliland, sued the Missouri Athletic Club for sexual harassment, race discrimination, and constructive discharge among other things. At trial, the jury found in favor of Mr. Gilliland on his constructive discharge claim and found the club liable for punitive damages. The jury rejected Mr. Gilliland's claims of race and sex discrimination. Mr. Gilliland appealed.

Affirming the trial court's judgment, the Supreme Court concluded that the jury's rejection of Mr. Gilliland's race and sex discrimination claims - and the fact that his jury instruction on constructive discharge made no mention of any category protected by the human rights act or other public policy - was fatal to his appeal.

For additional background on the case, see Kristen Hinman, "Taking it to the MAC," Riverfront Times, January 12, 2005, which was published while the case was pending.

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