Missouri House votes to give employers a level playing field in court

In an effort to bring Missouri employment law back in line with federal law, the Missouri House this week approved House Bill 320. The most significant provision of the bill would require workers who bring wrongful termination lawsuits to prove discrimination was a “motivating factor,” not simply a contributing factor in the employer’s action. The legislation also would apply to other wrongful discrimination actions, such as the denial of promotions.

“This is an important first step toward fairness for Missouri’s job creators who have been plagued by a decade of court decisions that have eroded our state’s laws and plunged the standards for bringing discrimination cases in Missouri to among the lowest in the nation,” said Missouri Chamber President Daniel P. Mehan. “Discrimination is ugly and wrong. But tipping the standards so far against employers is also wrong. This bill simply provides justice for both parties.”

Similar legislation was passed by the General Assembly last two legislative sessions, but was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon. As was the case last session, debate of the bill continued to be surrounded by misinformation distributed by opponents of the legislation, specifically the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, a group that has a great deal to lose by making it tougher to file frivolous lawsuits in Missouri.

“This bill absolutely still gives protection to employees who are truly discriminated against,” Mehan said. “Claims with merit deserve their day in court. Claims without merit need to be dismissed. But as it stands today, the law is so unfairly balanced against the employer, many employers simply settle out of court to avoid being dragged into court for years.”

For more information on employment law reform, contact Alex Curchin, Missouri Chamber general counsel/ governmental affairs, at acurchin@mochamber.com.

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