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Missouri Whistleblower Bill faces fourth attempt

Representative Kevin Elmer (R) from Christian County has filed legislation for the fourth time that, if passed, will protect workplace whistle-blowers from facing termination or retaliation from their employers.

The Whistleblower Protection Act is an important step toward protecting employee rights; however, its chance of passing both chambers and being signed into law is dubious given its past history.

The General Assembly in 2012 passed House Bill 1219, but Democratic Governor Jay Nixon vetoed it, in part, because of a provision restricting the amount of damages a whistle-blower could collect.

A later attempt faltered when language was added by Senate Republicans late in the legislative session that would ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. Openly gay Democratic Minority Leader Senator Jolie Justus noted the introduction of such language, the first time a bill addressing the issue got past the Senate, as a victory. But the addition of the new clause was not addressed by the House, and died.

Representative Elmer's fourth try at the bill allows employee whistle-blowers to collect back pay from the date of their separation from employment while doubling the amount of retroactive pay in damages. Medical bills for mental anguish would also be awarded, as well as twice the amount of damages.

In the past couple of years, there have been some high profile cases involving alleged whistle-blowers on the national level -- Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning and on the international level, Julian Assange and Wikileaks. These cases remain controversial and each has a wide spectrum of supporters and denouncers. Quite possibly, the effect of these cases and the way they have played out in the media could factor into the success or failure of Representative Elmer's bill.

Regardless of whether the bill passes on its fourth attempt, employees who have faced retaliation or termination for their attempts at alerting corporations or agencies of unacceptable and/or dangerous business practices still have recourse through the legal system. The first step is to consult with an attorney who is familiar with Missouri employment laws who can evaluate the case on its merits.

Source: news-leader.com, "Elmer tries again on bill to protect workers" Jonathan Shorman, Jan. 07, 2014

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