Request for Accommodation Will Not Support Retaliation Claim Under Missouri Human Rights Act, SCOMO Holds
February 4, 2020
Authored by: Elaine Koch and Jesus Osete
Under Missouri law, a request for accommodation cannot serve as the basis for a retaliation claim. Last month, the Supreme Court of Missouri issued a unanimous opinion in Lin v. Ellis, No. SC97641, 2020 WL 203145, at *5, — S.W.3d —- (Mo. banc Jan. 14, 2020) (per curiam), holding that “a mere request for an accommodation does not fall within the plain language of either the opposition or participation clause of” the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”), Mo. Rev. Stat. § 213.070.1(2).
The Lin case arose out of an employee’s request from her employer to accommodate her request to avoid tasks that aggravated her chronic back pain after being diagnosed with two herniated discs. Without requesting a doctor’s note, the employer provided the requested accommodation. Subsequently, the employee’s back pain worsened, and she asked to be excused from performing certain tasks that required her to work at a bench with her back bent for extended periods of time. The employer accommodated this request too and assigned her work that did not exacerbate her herniated discs.
After an internal complaint was filed against the employee, the employer asked human resources to initiate a process with a view toward terminating the employee. Simultaneously, the employer was informed that funding for the employee’s work under a grant was set to expire, thereby eliminating funding for the employee’s position. After the employer informed the employee that the funding for her work was set to expire, and after discussing other work the employee could perform in light