A ruling today by the Missouri Supreme Court continues to erode employment law against Missouri employers. Following today’s 5-2 decision by Missouri’s High Court, employees will have a much easier time winning cases against employers by alleging discrimination involving workers’ compensation claims. Employees only have to prove that their workers’ compensation claims were a “contributing factor” in their dismissal or demotion in order to win lawsuits claiming retaliation. This disregards 30 years of case law that required the workers’ compensation claim to be the “exclusive reason.”
“Adopting a ‘contributing factor’ standard is a stark change in our status as an employment-at-will state,” said Dan Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO. “There is no doubt this ruling will greatly increase employer liability by lowering the standard of proof necessary for an employer to prevail in a wrongful termination case against an employer.”
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry filed an amicus brief in support of the employer’s position in the case of Templemire v. W&M Welding. Originally filed in 2007, the plaintiff Templemire claims he was fired because of his filing of a workers’ compensation claim, while the company claims he was fired for failing to complete an assigned work task. At trial and on appeal, the courts found that Templemire could not receive compensation for his wrongful termination claim because his workers’ compensation claim was not the “exclusive cause” in his termination from employment. The Missouri Chamber supports the position of both the Circuit Court and the Court of Appeals that “exclusive factor” is the appropriate standard used in workers’ compensation retaliatory claims. The Missouri Supreme Court reversed the lower courts’ ruling.
“The Missouri Supreme Court is allowing speculation, not just facts, to lead to litigation,” Mehan said. “It is disturbing to watch the Court legislate from the bench. This ruling upends three decades of judicial precedent, in addition to misrepresenting the intent of the Missouri Legislature. It is no wonder Missouri has become one of the easiest states in the nation in which to bring unfounded discrimination claims against employers.”
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business organization in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers, providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.