Senate hold hearing for bill aiming to reform Missouri discrimination laws

House Bill 1019 would require fired employees to prove their termination was motivated by discrimination. The new standard would replace Missouri’s existing standard, which only requires employees to show discrimination contributed to their dismissal.

On April 21 the Senate Judiciary and Civil-Criminal Jurisprudence committee heard the bill and the Missouri Chamber testified on its behalf.

“This bill would provide a fair playing field for both employers and workers and help bring Missouri in line with federal law,” said Jay Atkins, a registered lobbyist representing the Missouri Chamber.

House Bill 1019 is sponsored by Rep. Kevin Austin, a Republican from Springfield. During House floor debate on the bill, opponents attacked this effort to change Missouri’s discrimination laws. However, Rep. Austin reminded House members that the bill simply follows successful federal law.

Unfortunately, the state’s existing statute has opened the door to retaliatory lawsuits that aren’t always based on merit. If passed, into law House Bill 1019 would help stop these frivolous lawsuits while ensuring employees retain the ability to sue in cases of discrimination.

“This bill does nothing to prevent legitimate claims,” Rep. Austin said.

Lawmakers have spent a lot of time this legislative session discussing Missouri’s discrimination statutes. The media has framed the issue by framing advocacy groups on one side or the other. Atkins points out that the ultimate goal of all stakeholders is not divided.

 “We all agree that discrimination is wrong and has no place in society, especially the workplace. We all agree that we need statutes that protect ALL employees and employers as well.  Where we disagree is how to get there,” Atkins said. “The Missouri Chamber’s longstanding position is that we need to strengthen our law so that legitimately discriminated people are protected and frivolous claims are limited. We will continue to work toward that and will consider other changes as well and our door is open to anyone who wants to work with us to achieve a compromise.”

For more information about this bill, contact Atkins at jatkins@mochamber.com.

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About mochamber

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry understands that the quality of life in our state depends on quality jobs for Missourians. To that end, we have one simple mission: to protect and advance Missouri business.

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