Kansas City attorneys Brian Finucane and Jim Holland won a jury verdict following a two week trial in an age discrimination and retaliation case. They had earlier won summary judgment on other claims in the same case based on the statute of limitations. Following the jury verdict, the plaintiff appealed on all claims. Brian and Jim, with assistance from Greg Ballew and Joel Rice, won again in the Missouri Court of Appeals. The Appellate Court rendered a very important ruling favorable to all employers on the statute of limitations under the Missouri Human Rights Act. Tisch v. DST Systems, Inc., 366 S.W.3d 345 (Mo. App. 2012)
The case involved an executive whose department and job were eliminated in a reorganization. The company found another position for him and lowered his salary to fit the new job. The employee delayed filing a charge with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights for three years. He then filed a lawsuit challenging his salary adjustment and a series of promotion denials over the entire three year period. The trial court granted summary judgment on all claims outside the 180 day charge filing period under the Missouri Human Rights Act. The jury then returned a verdict in favor of our client on all remaining timely claims.
Plaintiff appealed both the jury verdict and the summary judgment ruling. The summary judgment ruling raised important issues regarding the “continuing violation” theory. When applicable, the theory allows an employee to pursue otherwise untimely claims if he asserts at least one timely claim. On appeal, plaintiff argued for a result that in many cases would have effectively eliminated the 180 day charge filing period under the Missouri Human Rights Act.
The Fisher & Phillips team successfully persuaded the Missouri Court of Appeals to adopt a reasonable and limited view of the continuing violation theory. The Court held the theory did not apply to “discrete” acts such as salary determinations and promotion denials, but only to claims premised upon “day-to-day” discriminatory events such as hostile environment harassment. The Missouri Supreme Court denied plaintiff’s transfer request. The Court of Appeal ruling is now the law of the State of Missouri, and Missouri employers are entitled to the protection of a fair application of the statute of limitations.