During the 2017 Regular Session, the Missouri legislature passed SB 43 which will drastically undermine safeguards against discrimination in the workplace. The bill, which was sponsored by a legislator who owns and operates businesses currently being sued for workplace discrimination, was signed by Governor Eric Greitens on June 30, 2017 and will become law on Aug. 28th, 2017. Here is what you need to know about the upcoming changes to Missouri’s Human Rights Act:
CONTRIBUTING FACTOR V. MOTIVATING FACTOR
Proving discrimination in the workplace is hard. No supervisor, manager, or employer will ever outright admit to discriminating against someone in the workplace on the basis of age, gender, race, disability or nationality. Oftentimes, employees have to prove discrimination based on circumstantial evidence. That was why the Missouri legislature and courts adopted a test for proving such discrimination which required an employee claiming discrimination to prove that an adverse action was taken against them on the basis of their protected class. To put it more simply, an employee must prove that their protected class was a contributing factor in the adverse employment action.
Under the new law, an employee claiming discrimination will now have “the burden of proving the alleged unlawful decision or action was made or taken because of his or her protected classification and was the direct proximate cause of the claimed damages.” The effect of the change is that the employee claiming discrimination must prove that the employer was specifically motivated to take an adverse employment action because of their age, gender, race, disability, or nationality.
Additionally, the legislature capped the amount of damages that a plaintiff can recover in these cases depending upon the size of the employer. For example, if you work for an employer with more than five employees but less than one hundred one employees, you are potentially capable of recovering actual back pay, interest on back pay, and a maximum of $50,000 in any other additional damages awarded (i.e. punitive damages, pain and suffering, etc.). It will be interesting to watch the progression of the new law in the area of damages because the Missouri Supreme Court has recently found caps on punitive damages unconstitutional.
IF YOU THINK YOU’VE BEEN DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, ACT NOW!
I used to be the head of the state agency responsible for administering Missouri’s unemployment benefits. During my time there, I have seen many responsible employers trying to do the right thing for their employees. There were some exceptions, however, where the employer’s actions were completely indefensible. Unfortunately, discrimination and retaliation are all too common in the workplace. If you believe that you’re being discriminated in your workplace, call us today to help!