Proposed changes to Missouri’s employment discrimination laws could soon be considered on the House floor. Senate bill 43 has passed out of two House committees and the full Senate. The measure would require employees to prove that race, religion, sex or another protected status was a motivating factor for discrimination or for being fired.
Some Democrats agree that the laws should be updated, but not to the extent that Republicans want to go. Supporters of the bill say it would improve Missouri’s business and legal climates and reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits.
Democrats contend that employment discrimination cases would automatically be moved to federal court, creating an additional burden on affected Missourians. Rep. Steven Roberts (D-St. Louis) says the legislation would “close the doors to the courthouse” and creates one of the most difficult standards for a victim to win a workplace discrimination case.
“What is now clear to me, is that we are worlds away from serving the citizens of this great state when the bills being brought forth are more concerned about protecting the rights of the oppressors over the rights of the oppressed,” says Roberts.
Rep. Gina Mitten (D-St. Louis) says everyone is affected by the proposal, unless you are an atheist white male under 40.
“A law like this does not make the behavior go away,” says Mitten. “We need to be focusing on changing the culture, instead of protecting wrongdoers.”
Some of the provisions most difficult for Democrats to swallow involve:
*Excluding management level employees from whistleblower protections.
*Preventing workers from suing their colleagues.
*Not including protections for those being discriminated against based on sexual orientation.
*Proposed limits on all damages based on the size of the business being sued.
*Conflicts with child labor laws.
The measure passed 8-5 this week out of the House’s Special Committee on Litigation Reform, with Republicans Bill White and Don Phillips voting against the bill.