Mo. House approves changes to workplace discrimination law | St. Louis Public Radio

Mo. House approves changes to workplace discrimination law

Feb 9, 2012

Legislation that would redefine workplace discrimination standards in Missouri has passed the State House.

The bill would change the definition by making discrimination a motivating factor in any action taken by an employer against an employee, instead of a contributing factor as established by court rulings in recent years.  House Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones (R, Eureka) argued that the current standard is killing small businesses in Missouri.

“You are telling businesses not to hire, not to grow, not to take any chances, and on top of that, ‘don’t you dare fire those bad employees that you have that are messing up your work environment, because you’ll be sued,’” Jones said.

Other Republican House members said the bill would restore Missouri’s workplace discrimination standard to the federal guideline and make the state more business-friendly.  House Member Mike Colona (D, St. Louis) argued that Missouri has a higher standard that needs to be preserved.

“Presently, if Tommy is sued for firing Suzy, under Missouri law, in a Missouri Court, and it’s proven that 49 percent of the reason why Tommy fired Suzy is because she’s an African-American, Tommy gets slapped...Tommy gets hit with a judgement," Colona said.

The bill passed 89 to 68 on a mostly partisan vote – however, 12 Republicans joined House Democrats in voting “no.”  It now goes to the Missouri Senate, which passed its version of the bill on Wednesday. 

The measure would also limit the amount of punitive damages discrimination victims could recover.