A Missouri man who was fired from his job for being gay, after allegedly enduring seven years of harassment at work before the dismissal, is not going to be able to sue for discrimination.
A 2-1 decision in the Western District Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that the state law that protects against discrimination at work only covers gender-based issues.
“If the Missouri legislature had desired to include sexual orientation in the Missouri Human Rights Act’s protections, it could have done so,” wrote Chief Judge James Welch. “No matter how compelling Pittman’s argument may be and no matter how sympathetic this court or the trial court may be to Pittman’s situation, we are bound by the state of the law as it currently exists.”
The current Missouri law says employees can not be discriminated against based on their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age or disability, which led the court to have to decide on how broad the definition of "sex" was in this case.
The incident has made it clear that laws on discrimination may be due for an update, and according to Sarah Rossi, director of advocacy and policy at the ACLU, the only way to do that is to rewrite the law.
“Today the Missouri Court of Appeals made two things very clear: Missourians are being harassed, bullied, and fired from their jobs for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual and they will have no recourse in the courts unless the state legislature changes the Missouri Human Rights Act to protect them,” Rossi said.