Missouri Legislators Seek to Limit Employment Discrimination Protections

For the second year in a row, Missouri lawmakers are attempting to roll back the state's protections for victims of workplace discrimination.

If passed, the law would make it harder for Missouri employees to prove they had been the victims of employment discrimination based on a protected trait. Currently, illegal discrimination happens when an employee's protected trait becomes a "contributing factor" in an employer's decision. The proposed law would require the employee's protected trait to be the "motivating factor" in the employer's decision.

The proposed law also limits damages based on the size of the employer. Discrimination victims who work for employers with fewer than 100 employees would be limited to $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. Employees who work for the largest employers - those with more than 500 employees - would be subject to a $300,000 damage cap.

Law Would Harm Employees' Civil Rights

Missouri discrimination attorneys, along with some legislative Democrats and Governor Jay Nixon, are strongly opposing this attempt to limit employee rights.

Every employee should have the freedom to go to work without fear of being harassed, ignored or fired simply for being who they are. There is no reason that the state of Missouri should make it harder for honest workers to protect their civil rights.

Indeed, proving a discrimination claim is already challenging. Discrimination is an insidious practice. Rarely will an employer be so obvious as to tell an employee "I am not promoting you because you are African-American" or "you are fired because you are old." Rather, prejudice is subtle, which means that the employee and his or her attorney will have to investigate the employer's actions to uncover proof of discriminatory intent.

The Missouri General Assembly passed nearly identical restrictions last year, but Governor Nixon vetoed the bill. The bill is currently working its way through both the House and Senate and is expected to pass. The Governor has not stated publicly whether he will veto the bill if it passes again.