State law claim for sex and age discrimination? Nope.

Age and Sex Discrimination

Age and Sex Discrimination

We previously wrote here about sexual harassment claims under federal law. As we noted, no Mississippi law prohibits such (unless the misconduct rises to the level of assault or battery).

Has that changed? No.

On August 6, 2020, in Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company v. Thomas, the Mississippi Supreme Court rejected two employees’ efforts to create such a state law claim, as well as a claim for age discrimination.

The handbook approach.

In Southern Farm Bureau, the plaintiffs expressly disclaimed any reliance on federal law prohibiting sex and age discrimination.

Instead, they argued that their employee handbook stated that Southern Farm Bureau would not discriminate on the basis of sex or age.

The Supreme Court quickly rejected that argument because the handbook contained a provision that it was not a contract of employment and did not alter the employees’ at-will status.

Public policy.

The employees also encouraged the Court to create a public policy exception to at-will employment and create a state-law alternative to the federal statutes.

The Supreme Court rejected this because federal law already provided the employees with a remedy. They simply failed to pursue it.

So, for now, federal law is the remedy for sex and age discrimination.

Panter Law Firm, PLLC, 7736 Old Canton Road, Suite B, Madison, MS 39110