Proposed changes to the state’s employment discrimination laws have been passed by the Missouri legislature. The measure would make it tougher for employees to win wrongful termination lawsuits because it would require workers to prove that race, religion, sex or other protected status was a motivating factor for discrimination or being fired.
Rep. Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City), who opposes the bill, says it would end protections for victims of harassment.
“What would the body want to happen if this conduct happened to their wife,” asks Barnes, “Could you look your 17-year-old daughter in the eye and say ‘I just voted for a bill that would allow your supervisor to make disgusting sexual comments to you without any liability?’”
Those siding with Barnes also say the proposal is discriminatory and would gut whistleblower protections currently in place.
Under the legislation, it would also stop workers from suing their colleagues and limit damages that could be awarded in such lawsuits.
Supporters of the bill, including Rep. Dean Plocher (R-St. Louis), disagree with Barnes’s argument.
“It’s been alleged that we somehow want individuals to get off and individuals to do these horrible acts, seventeen-year-olds getting hurt,” says Plocher. “This bill, though, is not about letting individuals off. This bill is all about calling out what has been happening.”
Plocher says at least 90% of individuals that are pled out in such cases are later dismissed.
“To say that individuals are held accountable under the standard that we have now is disingenuous,” says Plocher. “Individuals are not held accountable by what we have.”
Supporters of the measure also say it would be a business friendly move by reducing the excessive number of such frivolous lawsuits.
Barnes says the measure would hurt businesses not help them.
“We will have moved from the most protective state in the nation on civil rights to one of the least,” says Barnes.
The legislation heads to Governor Eric Greitens (R), who is expected to sign it.