November 23, 2014

Lawmakers debate so-called ‘Whistleblower Protection Act’

Lawmakers in a House committee have debated a bill its sponsor says would protect people Missouri who report when an employer does something illegal.

Representative Kevin Elmer (photo courtesy; Missouri House Communications)

Representative Kevin Elmer (photo courtesy; Missouri House Communications)

House Bill 320 would create what its language calls the “Whistleblower Protection Act.” It would change the definition of who is a “protected person” under Missouri law to be someone who has reported employer wrondoing to a “proper authority,” defined as a “governmental or law enforcement agency or an officer or the employee’s human resources representative employed by the employer.”

Representative Stephen Webber (D-Columbia) says that definition would be too narrow.

“It seems to me that [under this legislation] a person can see the law being broken, they can report the law being broken to somebody that is not a proper authority, and if the law is not reported to a proper authority they’re not technically a protected, meaning they have zero coverage for whistleblower protection … therefore they can be terminated.”

The proposal’s sponsor, Representative Kevin Elmer (R-Nixa), says it makes sense to have a person only be protected if they take a report to the proper people.

“They could go out and report to anybody but that’s not the proper channel to report a wrongdoing. I mean, the intent is to stop the bad acts by the employer … and it’s not going to stop if it’s not being reported to the right people, because where is the enforcement going to come from?”

The proposal would also require workers who file lawsuits alleging discrimination was a factor in their dismissal prove that it was a motivating factor and not a contributing one, cap the amount of damages that can be awarded to an employee and eliminate individual liability in discrimination cases.

Similar bills have been vetoed in the last two years by Governor Nixon.

No vote has been taken on the legislation.