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Missouri government mulls employment legislation

A bill was introduced in Missouri's House on April 15 that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations. House Bill 407 is similar to a Senate bill that passed out of committee recently, but both bills are seen as a long shot to gain approval. They face potential opposition from the Missouri Family Network and the state's chamber of commerce.

Attempts to pass similar legislation, known as MONA laws, have failed in previous years. Two years ago, a bill that addressed concerns about discrimination against LGBT citizens passed the Senate but was not taken up by the House. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce asked for changes to the current bill, including caps on potential damages and allowing for summary judgments. It also wanted to define the word employer for the purposes of such legislation.

Those who are against the bill say that they are offended at being labeled as advocates for discrimination. However, those who are in support of the bill say that is exactly what they are doing by speaking out against the proposed legislation. The ACLU, Monsanto and St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce spoke in favor of the bill. There is only one openly gay member of the General Assembly, and he said that HB407 should be able to pass on its own merit.

While the legal landscape continues to change, employers who discriminate against employees or create a hostile working environment may be breaking state employment laws that have already been established. Anyone who believes that they were the victim of employment discrimination may wish to talk to an attorney. It may be possible to win compensation for back pay and benefits that may have been lost due to wrongful termination. Punitive damages may also be awarded in some cases.

Source: STL Public Radio, "Non-discrimination bill gets another hearing in Missouri legislature," Ray Howze, April 15, 2015

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