Missouri lawmakers recently enacted far-ranging legislation (SB 43) that affects the rights of workers in Missouri. Sadly, the new law weakens workers’ rights, making it more difficult to prove discrimination against their employer and imposes additional administrative hurdles a worker must clear before filing a lawsuit.
The law previously prevented employers from discriminating or retaliating against workers if such discrimination “contributed to” the harm suffered by a worker. For example, if a female worker was fired and the worker’s gender contributed to the employer’s decision to fire her, then that would be sufficient to show discrimination. The new law, however, requires a worker to show that the discrimination was “the motivating” factor for harm suffered by the worker. This allows employers to now lawfully discriminate against workers as long as the discrimination is not the motivating factor in the employer’s decision-making process. In the example above, the female worker could show that her gender was a reason for her termination and still fail in her claim if her employer can demonstrate other reasons were the primary reason for the worker’s termination.
Business-friendly advocates of SB 43 often framed the changes to the law as bringing Missouri in line with neighboring states’ employment law, but it’s easy to see how the law weakens existing worker protections and gives businesses cover to discriminate. It’s difficult to see how legislators viewed the current business landscape and believed workers had too many rights that needed to be curtailed to level the playing field. The outcry of “frivolous lawsuits” seems to ignore the daily experience of workers who are subjected to employers that routinely violate state and federal law without consequence.
Going forward, it isn’t necessary for most workers thinking about filing charges of discrimination or wrongful termination to know the details of SB 43. However, these individuals must understand that SB 43 takes effect August 28, 2017, so it is imperative that they speak to an attorney as soon as possible to learn about their legal rights and options.
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