How We Can Make Missouri a More Business-Friendly State
If you have been listening to the Senate this session, one issue seems to be taking center stage – recent court decisions and the negative effects they have had on Missouri small businesses. Some of the decisions have opened up employers to greater liability and have lowered the standard for employees to make a claim for discrimination.
It’s causing a high cost of doing business in this state. Instead of hiring more employees, companies are spending that money in the courtroom. My hope this session is to reform Missouri’s legal climate and improve the state’s ability to grow existing businesses and attract new employers.
After many long hours, the Senate advanced a measure that will return the balance between employees and employers by allowing plaintiffs the right to a jury trial but also protecting business owners from frivolous lawsuits. Senate Bill 43 raises the standard for determining whether an employer is liable for a discrimination charge under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), as well as the Whistleblower Protection Act, from a “contributing factor” to the “motivating factor.” The “motivating factor” means that the employee’s protected classification actually played a role in the adverse action or decision and had a determinative influence on the adverse decision or action. The plaintiff must also prove that the action was the direct immediate cause of the claimed damages.
The goal is to restore the original meaning and legislative intent behind existing statutes — something Missouri courts have moved away from within the last decade. Senate Bill 43 will align Missouri’s discrimination law with federal law and the practice of many other states. This much-needed measure will help employers in the Show-Me State avoid meritless litigation and clarify their potential liabilities. Strong protections for employees will also remain in place. This legislation will help reform Missouri’s legal climate to be fair and structured to attract, rather than discourage, investment to our state.
Discrimination at any level is wrong, but we must have a balance. Frivolous lawsuits take money out of our communities and are not good for anyone in the long run. Too many meritless employment discrimination cases are being filed. In the Senate we will work to return the standard back to what was originally intended.