Missouri House takes on Whistleblower Protection Act

This week the Missouri House discussed Missouri’s Whistleblower policy and what the legislature can do to protect those who speak out on wrongdoing in the workplace. Heard in the House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee, House Bill 1188 would protect employees who report illegal workplace conduct. Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa, the proposed legislation would also provide legal protection to employers.

The bill would codify the existing common law exceptions and make it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discharge or retaliate against an individual who is a protected person under the whistleblower protection.  The bill would then become the exclusive remedy for any and all unlawful employment practices and puts a cap on the amount of damages a person can receive.  However, a court may award the plaintiff actual damages.

This Missouri Chamber is supportive of this legislation.  Jay Atkins, general counsel for the Missouri Chamber, testified on behalf of the bill.

“Those who oppose this legislation argue that potential plaintiffs will be unable to file litigation because the definition of protected person under the bill is more stringent than what currently exists in common law,” Atkins said. “However, employers and employees are best served by having this standard established in statute.”

The committee did not take any action on this bill.  For more information about employment law, please contact Jay Atkins, general counsel for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry at jatkins@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQsDRgWFeYA

Missouri Chamber testifies in support of Right to Work legislation

Two bills came before the Workforce Development and Workplace Safety committee in the House this week that would give Missouri voters the opportunity to vote on Missouri’s right to work status.

Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, sponsors House Bill 1770, which would prohibit employers from requiring workers to become members of a union as a condition of employment. Burlison presented labor statistics arguing that Right to Work status would ultimately prove an economic boon for the state.

Jay Atkins, general counsel for the Missouri Chamber, testified on behalf of the bill.

Jay Atkins

Jay Atkins

House Bill 1772, sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, would allow a county-by-county Right to Work vote. Rehder argued that southern counties like hers were strongly in favor of Right to Work legislation and “bleeding” jobs to neighboring Arkansas, a Right to Work state.

“It is a new idea, it hasn’t been done before,” Rehder said. “But I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad one. We’ve been having this argument for years now, and I think maybe it’s time to let local citizens decide.”

For more information about right to work legislation, please contact Jay Atkins at jatkins@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btQP5rJUR7k

Missouri Chamber testifies in favor of “paycheck protection” legislation

This week the House Workforce Development and Workforce Safety Committee heard testimony on legislation commonly known as “paycheck protection.” The bill, House Bill 1617, sponsored by Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, would require unions to get annual written authorization in order to collect fees that are automatically deducted from a worker’s paycheck by an employer. Unions would need similar consent to spend a person’s fees on political activities.

The Missouri Chamber's Jay Atkins testifies in front of a House committee hearing Rep. Holly Rehder's paycheck protection bill.

The Missouri Chamber’s Jay Atkins testifies in front of a House committee hearing Rep. Holly Rehder’s paycheck protection bill.

This legislation is necessary to ensure that workers have control over how a union spends its fees.  The general assembly passed a similar measure last year, but it was vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Rep. Rehder wants her bill to be sent to a vote of the people instead of the governor, which would increase the measure’s chances of becoming law. If passed, it would appear on the August 2014 ballot.

The Missouri Chamber is supportive of this legislation, and Jay Atkins, general counsel for the Missouri Chamber, testified on its behalf.

“Our members overwhelmingly support this legislation,” Atkins testified. “Each and every person should have the right to choose each year how their dues or their fees are spent and where those contributions go. This legislation will allow union members to direct where their money will go.”

Like last year’s version, unions representing “first responders,” such as police and firefighters, would not be affected under Rehder’s measure.

The committee did not vote on the measure Monday.

For more information on paycheck protection legislation, please contact Jay Atkins, general counsel for the Missouri Chamber, at jatkins@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

House committee hears legislation that would change prevailing wage laws

The Missouri House Workforce Development and Workplace Safety Committee took on legislation this week that would reform prevailing wage laws in Missouri.

House Bill 1306, sponsored by Rep. Warren Love, R- Osceola, would change the laws regarding the prevailing hourly rate of wages, and would revise the definition of construction as it relates to prevailing wages on public works projects by removing improvements, alterations, or major repairs and specifies that it does not include maintenance work. Currently the law includes construction, reconstruction, improvement, enlargement, alteration, painting and decorating or major repair.

The Missouri Chamber has a long-standing position against prevailing wage mandates.

“Prevailing wage is a product of a bygone era.  The policy mandates an arbitrary level of wage-setting on public projects,” Jay Atkins, general counsel for the Missouri Chamber, said.  “That mandate is costing taxpayers far greater costs for public projects. In some areas of the state, it could nearly double the wage level on taxpayer-funded projects compared to wages for other local construction projects.”

For more information about prevailing wage issues, please contact Jay Atkins, general counsel and director of governmental affairs for the Missouri Chamber, at jatkins@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.