Each state has its own unique approach to sexual harassment laws, and Missouri is no exception. While many aspects of sexual harassment law are determined at the federal level, states do have some freedom as to how they want to interpret and enforce these federal civil rights laws. Gaining a firm understanding of sexual harassment laws is important, whether you live in Jefferson City or any other part of the Show-Me State.
Of course, your first step should always be to enlist the help of a qualified attorney if you have experienced sexual harassment. With the help of a lawyer who understands employment law and civil rights, you stand a much better chance of achieving justice. These legal professionals can guide you forward as you take your next few steps, and they are also extremely familiar with the specific laws and regulations that surround sexual harassment in Missouri.
The Missouri Human Rights Act
Also known as the MHRA, the Missouri Human Rights Act outlines the state’s stance on sexual harassment. This piece of legislation only applies to employers with six or more employees. The MHRA also goes much further than workplaces, as it also outlines laws pertaining to housing, lending, and a range of other public activities.
In the context of employment, the MHRA specifically forbids the following:
- Harassment based on gender
- Harassment or discrimination based on pregnancy or related medical conditions
- Sexual harassment of all types
- Any kind of discrimination related to giving out compensation
It’s worth noting that harassment based on gender and sexual harassment are very similar. Indeed, some incidents may classify as both sexual harassment and gender-based harassment. Other situations may classify as one or the other.
The Legal Definition of Sexual Harassment
For many people, “sexual harassment” is a rather vague and ill-defined term. You may be wondering what constitutes sexual harassment in the state of Missouri. According to Missouri’s Department of Labor, sexual harassment is defined as “any behavior of sexual nature that creates a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment.”
The Department of Labor goes on to clarify that sexual harassment may include verbal comments such as lewd jokes and inappropriate compliments. Of course, physical touching a clear example of sexual harassment. Simply showing someone an inappropriate picture with a smartphone or via email may also constitute sexual harassment. One of the most serious examples of sexual harassment involves a superior employee soliciting sexual favors in return for rewards (or laced with threats of punitive action).
Get Help As Soon As Possible
If you have experienced sexual assault in Missouri, it’s important to get help from a qualified attorney as soon as possible. Report the offense to your employer or to the authorities, and remain safe at all times. Even if your employer has less than six employees, you can still take action thanks to federal civil rights laws.