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Bill may impeded workers' ability to sue for discrimination

The Missouri House passed a bill on April 9 tightening restrictions around employment discrimination lawsuits and protection of whistleblowers. Workers in Missouri must demonstrate that discrimination was a contributing factor in how they were treated at work, but the bill proposes that the standard be changed to a motivating factor. The bill also narrows the definition of and requirements for a whistleblower and limits the ability of whistleblowers to sue for discrimination.

The bill must survive a vote in the Senate and then go to the governor for final approval. The governor has vetoed previous similar bills, and the bill does not have enough votes in the House to survive a veto.

The sponsor of the bill says that it will protect employers and give them an opportunity to defend themselves and will make state law more congruent with federal law. Opponents say that it will leave workers more vulnerable to sexual harassment and to discrimination based on factors like race and age.

Whether or not the bill is successful, individuals who feel they have been harassed or discriminated against at work may wish to begin by finding out who at work they need to speak to about the situation. They may also wish to consult an attorney at that time, or they may want to wait and see if the situation can be resolved within the workplace.

There are a number of characteristics that are considered protected classes from discrimination under federal law including religion, national origin and disability. Individuals who are unsure as to whether they fall under one of these protected classes may also wish to consult a lawyer.

Source: Greenfield Reporter, "Missouri house passes measure making it tougher for workers to win job discrimination lawsuits," Marie French, April 9, 2015

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