Bill to reform Missouri’s employment law passes Senate
JEFFERSON CITY— This week, the Missouri State Senate advanced a bill that will help reform the state’s legal climate to be fair and structured to attract, rather than discourage, investment to our state. Senate Bill 43 will modify the law relating to unlawful discrimination.
Senate Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said like most of the bills the Senate has approved so far this session, the modification will help Missouri become more competitive with not only its neighbors, but nationwide as well.
"This is another tool to make Missouri’s business climate better," said Richard. "We said we were going to create an environment so jobs would come to the state of Missouri, and by passing this bill, we are adding to the list of reforms."
Bill sponsor Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, said finding an appropriate balance between employees and employers was crucial to getting this bill over the finish line.
"Discrimination at any level is wrong," said Romine. "This reform will help ensure balance between employees and employers by allowing plaintiffs the right to a jury trial but also protecting business owners from frivolous lawsuits."
Senate Bill 43 raises the standard for determining whether an employer is liable for a discrimination charge under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), as well as the Whistleblower Protection Act, from a "contributing factor" to the "motivating factor." The "motivating factor" means that the employee’s protected classification actually played a role in the adverse action or decision and had a deciding influence on the adverse decision or action. The plaintiff must also prove that the action was the direct immediate cause of the claimed damages.
The measure also creates the "Whistleblower’s Protection Act." Under the act, employers cannot fire someone for reporting an unlawful act of the employer or refusing to carry out an illegal act for that employer.
Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said a strong employment discrimination law allows for appropriate action in discrimination cases but also blocks frivolous and fraudulent cases from moving forward.
"Our current system encourages meritless cases to move forward. Many times they force a settlement and cost small businesses time and money," said Kehoe. "By advancing this bill, we are taking another step forward in improving the toxic legal climate in Missouri."
The measure now moves to the House for consideration. To learn more about this bill or to track its progress, visit www.senate.mo.gov.