Controversial Workplace Discrimination Law Passes Missouri House

workplace discrimination law Missouri HouseBy Wes Duplantier

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Despite several lawmakers voicing fears about reversing decades of hard-fought civil rights gains, the Missouri House approved a measure that would change the rules for workplace discrimination cases heard in state court.

The bill would require workers who bring wrongful termination lawsuits to prove discrimination was a "motivating factor" -- not simply a contributing factor -- in the employer's action. The legislation also would apply to other wrongful discrimination actions, such as denying promotions.

The House's 89-68 vote came after several lawmakers spoke against the measure. Minority Leader Mike Talboy said the provisions would give employers less incentive to prevent discrimination.

"What you're doing with that is making that behavior easier to get away with," said Talboy, D-Kansas City.

Republicans argued that the change would match federal discrimination laws and make the state more business-friendly.

"This is a pushback against a liberal interpretation by our courts and this is an encouragement of what it takes to operate here in Missouri," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa.

The measure approved Thursday would also cap the amount of punitive damages victims can recover. In cases where employers were found to have wrongfully discriminated, the legislation would tie punitive damages to a company's number of employees, with a maximum award of $300,000. Government bodies would not be liable for any punitive damages.

Rep. Clem Smith, D-St. Louis County, said Thursday that the legislation would create a "menu of discrimination," allowing employers to set a fixed cost on discriminatory actions.

"I think we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard and that we shouldn't regress," he said.

Republican supporters of the measure have said those changes would align Missouri laws with federal protections outlined in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Democrats took issue with that, saying that the state should use a more stringent standard than one from a law written nearly 50 years ago.

Rep. John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, said those who support a change in Missouri's standards don't support discrimination, but rather want to make the state more economically competitive.

"If we're saying that this brings us back to the Jim Crow laws or the Civil War, that's patently and absurdly false," he said.

The Senate approved its own version of the legislation Wednesday in a 28-5 vote, which came about a week after Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, filibustered for 15 hours against the bill. She was in the House during Thursday's debate.

The House and the Senate must reconcile their bills before sending the legislation to Gov. Jay Nixon, who vetoed similar legislation last year, saying at the time that it would have rolled back decades of civil rights progress.

Nixon told members of The Associated Press and the Missouri Press Association during Thursday's annual Capitol media event that he would need to examine this year's legislation. However, he said, his position on the issue has not changed.

"We're going to have a diverse workplace. Our workplaces need to be places where folks can go without the fear of discrimination, and if they are discriminated against, have rights," Nixon said.

The House did not have a veto-proof margin in Thursday's vote, falling short of the 109 votes required. The measure in the Senate was supported by a veto-proof margin.

Next: Black Missouri Lawmakers Vow To Fight Worker Discrimination Bill

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I try to hire Muslims and Hispanics, as they have shown to be more reliable. Probably due to the importance of family and work ethic in their cultures.

February 12 2012 at 4:46 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

I'm an old white guy and only hire old white guys. They are the most discriminated against group out there. I call it "affirmative Giri-action."

February 12 2012 at 4:25 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to whynotreuse's comment

This law actually limits that ability. They are changing the law to prevent older workers from using it, that is who files more cases in Mo. now. Its been the same law for 50 years, but didn't become a problem until now when companies are eliminating boomers who are percieved as driving up the cost of benefits and b/c younger employees are cheaper.

February 12 2012 at 4:34 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Someone should have fired Louis rddragn1's English teacher.

February 12 2012 at 4:13 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Bottom line is Cos. could care less about their workers. Yet they want loyalty from workers. Recently my Co. laid-off & everyone was 47 or older go figure. Cos. want young & dumb backstabbers just do what your told & don;t ask questions or you will be on the outside looking in. Screw you & your unions we need to be more competitive. The new world order according the GOP.

February 12 2012 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Republicans are trying to turn back the hands of time - to the 1960's, prior to Civil Rights - not only in Mo, but in practically every state in the union. Their motivation is money, and in opposition to a Black man who dared to "cross" them to become the President. I am so tired of this tit-for-tat mentality! I hope the American People wake up and get a conscience before the rest of the Republican party sells us down the river. When the Republican party was in it's heyday, it was the greatest political party, and it stood for everything that was right. Now it's dominated by religious facists and people who want this country to be as repressed as they are.

February 12 2012 at 4:06 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

The bill would require workers who bring wrongful termination lawsuits to prove discrimination was a "motivating factor" -- not simply a contributing factor -- in the employer's action. The legislation also would apply to other wrongful discrimination actions, such as denying promotions.

As wrong as any discrimination is.. also is it wrong to use discrimination as a sword for the wrong reasons.. The weather can be a contributing factor.. and so used for wrongful action.. but would have nothing to do with any discrimination.. so making the source of "motivating factors" the source does address discrimination for wrongful reasons! Well done.. Hopefully the US Congress can take off the blinders and read the tealeaves soon!

February 12 2012 at 4:06 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rmrmsix's comment

Fortunately the Missouri Human Rights Act does prohibit discrimination based on race, gender (which includes sexual harassment), age, disability or religious belief in any form, at any time, in any way. That is a zero-tolerance policy. Previously, we have said that we so despise racism and sexism that we refuse to accept, at least legally speaking, the slightest bit of discrimination. The GOP law so that now discrimination must be proven to be a motivating factor. This isn't a zero-tolerance policy — it's a 49 percent-tolerance policy.
Under this bill, as long as someone can argue that another factor at least equals or exceeds an act of racism, sexism or religious intolerance, Missouri law would not apply. A company that passes a woman over for promotion multiple times could concede that the fact that she is a woman contributed to that, but the real motivation is “she is difficult to deal with.”

February 12 2012 at 4:27 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

"it will make the stae more business friendly"...for those who prefer to discriminate. Do the Rebublicans really believe that the majority of people out there don't see that it is The Republicans who are taking away our rights as individuals and giving them to businesses?

February 12 2012 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Louis rddragn1

If your an employer and you want to fire someone, just do it. If you get fired, more than likely you deserved it. so stop bitching. If your black, well that is an easy one, blacks always have an excuse because of race, in reality its not color it's inefficiency regardless of race. If your handicapped and got hired than fired you probablly deserved it. If your gay that's your problem. If your to old to do the job like me, than the employer has the right to get rid of you. The business belongs to the employer and no one else, its his business and if anyone is not functioning it's time to get rid of him or her... Everyone is looking for an excuse for their inefficiency. Just realize your a waste of a space that someone good should have. Stop complaining and run for congress or president, your needed their, you can join the totally wasted group of inefficient liberal jerk-offs.

February 12 2012 at 3:57 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

This will loosen up the hiring of minorities especiallly African American ones. The race card has been played in so many situations that was not true ,has caused white employers to fear hiring blacks at all. You were guilty till proven innocent of a curse, when accused. Too bad a once lagitamate complaint has been so over used, that it has had to be legislated to be fair.

February 12 2012 at 3:45 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to DENNY SHAFFER's comment

Yeah ok want to buy some stock in turning rocks into diamonds?

February 12 2012 at 4:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

finally, some common sense and backing away from pandering to the victim classes...

February 12 2012 at 3:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Howard's comment

according to the GOP, corporations are the new victim class.

February 12 2012 at 4:35 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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