The Missouri Human Rights Act Does Not Apply Outside of Missouri

In Dwight Tuttle v. Dobbs Tire & Auto, Inc., No. ED106615 (Dec 18, 2018), Robert Younger and Dean Kpere-Daibo of McMahon Berger successfully defended an age discrimination and retaliation suit brought pursuant to the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA” or “the Act”) where the Plaintiff was employed in Illinois. The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District affirmed the dismissal of the Plaintiff’s claims because the MHRA does not apply to an employee who is not employed in Missouri.

In Tuttle, the Plaintiff was employed as a manager of a Dobbs Tire & Auto (“Dobbs Tire”) retail store. The Plaintiff filed his petition in St. Louis County Circuit Court alleging he was constructively discharged by Dobbs Tire on the basis of his age and retaliated against for engaging in protected activity in violation of the MHRA. Among other things, the Plaintiff alleged that he was unlawfully demoted when Dobbs Tire transferred him from one Illinois store to another.

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss alleging the MHRA did not apply to the Plaintiff’s claims because he lived and worked outside of Missouri. Defendants further argued the MHRA could not be applied extraterritorially to the Plaintiff who lived and worked outside of Missouri because no language in the MHRA allowed for such application. In response, the Plaintiff argued, among other things, that the MHRA applied to him because he pled that “discriminatory decisions” were made in St. Louis County. The trial court agreed with the Defendants and entered judgment in favor of the Defendants, granting their motion, and dismissing the Plaintiff’s claims with prejudice.

On appeal, the Plaintiff argued that he properly pled sufficient facts to establish the MHRA applied because the “discriminatory decisions” were made in Missouri. The Plaintiff also argued he came within the protection of the MHRA because he worked for a Missouri employer, even though he lived and worked outside of Missouri. In an unpublished decision, the Court of Appeals disagreed with the Plaintiff’s positions. First, the Court held the Plaintiff’s petition did not meet the necessary fact-pleading requirements because he merely made conclusory statements related to discriminatory practices or “decisions” that occurred in Missouri, but failed to provide essential facts. Therefore, the trial court did not err dismissing the Plaintiff’s petition.

Second, and most importantly, the Court of Appeals agreed with the Defendants that state statutes do not ordinarily have extra-territorial effect. In light of this, the Court further held that because the MHRA does not contain express language to suggest that it should apply to persons who work exclusively outside of Missouri, the Act does not apply outside Missouri. The Court, therefore, affirmed the trial court’s judgment holding the trial court did not err when it dismissed the Plaintiff’s petition because the MHRA is not applicable to the Plaintiff who lived and worked outside of Missouri.

The Court of Appeals decision in Tuttle is the first to determine the geographical limits of the MHRA.  The Court of Appeals here makes it clear that without express language contained in the MHRA that demonstrates the Missouri legislature intended for the Act to protect employees who are employed outside of Missouri, the Act cannot be applied to out-of-state employees who do not have sufficient contacts with the state, even if a Missouri employer employs them.

The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters for over sixty years and are available to discuss these issues and others. As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.