Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Second Division
from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri The
Honorable Kenneth R. Garrett, III, Judge.
Before: Thomas N. Chapman, Presiding Judge, and Mark D.
Pfeiffer and Cynthia L. Martin, Judges.
D. Pfeiffer, Judge.
Lois McDonald ("McDonald") appeals from the
judgment entered by the Circuit Court of Jackson County,
Missouri ("circuit court"), granting the Chamber of
Commerce of Independence, Missouri's
("Chamber") motion to dismiss McDonald's
petition for damages under the Missouri Human Rights Act
("MHRA"). Because the circuit court has conflated
statutory prerequisites to filing suit with subject matter
jurisdiction, the circuit court's ruling is erroneous. We
reverse and remand.
and Procedural History
born August 7, 1952, was hired by the Chamber in 2011 as
Vice-President of Community Development at a salary of $80,
000 per year. With the exception of the Chamber's
president, McDonald was the oldest employee at the Chamber.
On November 28, 2016, the Chamber's president informed
McDonald that her salary was being reduced to $50, 000 per
year. No other employees, all of whom were younger than
McDonald, had their salaries reduced. McDonald also had not
been offered the same opportunities for career development as
those offered to younger employees. On March 2, 2017,
McDonald filed a Charge of Discrimination against the Chamber
with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights
("Commission") and thereafter requested a notice of
her right to sue and was notified by the Commission that a
response to such request would be forthcoming on or before
August 15, 2017. However, the Commission did not issue a
right-to-sue letter to McDonald until September 28, 2017.
August 25, 2017, McDonald filed a petition for damages
against Chamber, alleging age discrimination. Thereafter, and
four days after the Commission had issued its
right-to-sue letter (which shows that Chamber was copied),
Chamber filed a motion to dismiss McDonald's petition for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction arguing that, without
an allegation included in the petition that McDonald
had received her right-to-sue letter from the
Commission (even though Chamber had actual knowledge that
such right-to-sue letter had, by then, been issued),
McDonald had failed to plead that she had exhausted
her administrative remedies under the MHRA. Consequently,
Chamber argued that the circuit court did not have
subject matter jurisdiction over McDonald's
claims and should dismiss the petition.
responded by arguing that the right-to-sue letter had been
issued and, hence, all statutory prerequisites had been met
authorizing the MHRA claim to proceed.
circuit court granted Chamber's motion to dismiss,
expressly concluding that it lacked subject matter
jurisdiction, and thereafter, the circuit court denied
McDonald's Rule 67.06 motion to amend her petition to add
an allegation that, in fact, the right-to-sue letter had been
issued by the Commission.
review the granting of a motion to dismiss de novo.
Avery Contracting, LLC v. Niehaus, 492 S.W.3d 159,
161-62 (Mo. banc 2016). We assume all facts alleged in the
petition are true and liberally construe all inferences from
those facts in favor of the plaintiff. Id. at 162.
We review the petition "to determine if the plaintiff
has alleged facts that meet the elements of a recognized
cause of action or of a cause that might be adopted in that
case." Id. "In determining the
appropriateness of the trial court's dismissal of a
petition, an appellate court reviews the grounds raised in
the defendant's motion to dismiss." Goldsby v.
Lombardi, 559 S.W.3d 878, 881 (Mo. banc 2018). "If
the motion to dismiss cannot be sustained on any ground
alleged in the motion, the trial court's ruling will be
reversed." Id. (internal quotation marks
of McDonald's MHRA Lawsuit
MHRA protects persons aged 40 to 70 from age
discrimination." Kerr v. Curators of the Univ. of
Mo., 512 S.W.3d 798, 806 (Mo. App. W.D. 2016) (internal
quotation marks omitted). Section 213.055.1(1)(a), as it
relates to McDonald's petition alleging age
discrimination, provides, in part:
1. It shall be an unlawful employment practice:
(1) For an employer, because of the . . . age . . . of any
(a) To . . . discriminate against any individual with respect
to his compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of
employment, because of such ...