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Jeffery v. St. Louis Fire Department

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fifth Division

December 27, 2016

GORDON JEFFERY, Appellant,
v.
ST. LOUIS FIRE DEPARTMENT, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable Julian Bush.

          Philip M. Hess, Chief Judge.

         Introduction

         Gordon Jeffery ("Appellant") appeals from the judgment of the circuit court of the City of St. Louis dismissing his suit of employment discrimination under the Missouri Human Rights Act ("MHRA") for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. Appellant argues that he properly exhausted his administrative remedies because his administrative charge provided his employer, the St. Louis City Fire Department (the "Department"), with notice of the claim he later pursued in his petition. We agree Appellant exhausted his administrative remedies. We reverse the circuit court's judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Factual Background[1]

         Appellant is an African American employed with the Department. On March 27, 2014, Appellant filed an administrative charge with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights ("MCHR") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that:

I. I am an African American . . .
II. In 2013, [the Department] announced multiple vacancies for Battalion Chief. I applied for the position and . . . completed all the necessary testing requirements. On November 25, 2013, I was notified by [the Department] that I did not score high enough to be ranked on the eligible list. At the time of my testing I had been with the department for over 25 years, and had been a Captain for over 16 years . . . I do not believe the test accurately measured my knowledge, skills, and abilities.
III. Given that the majority of those who scored high enough to be ranked on the eligible list were Caucasian individuals, I believe the test had a disparate impact on African American Individuals.
IV. Based on the above stated reasons, I believe I was discriminated against because of my race, African American, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

         On May 26, 2015, Appellant received a right to sue letter from the MCHR. Appellant filed suit against the Department on August 24, 2015. In his petition, Appellant alleged, inter alia, that:

30. [The Department] has engaged in unlawful discriminatory acts that are prohibited under the [Missouri Human Rights Act]. . . . .
33. [The Department] treated [Appellant] inequitably based upon his race and provided unfavorable workplace terms, conditions, and privileges of employment as compared to other similarly situated employees who are not African American.
34. [Appellant] was denied a promotion . . . on the basis of his race despite his superior experience and aptitude compared to similarly situated Caucasian ...

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