State Government
3:47 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Mo. House Committee To Investigate Workplace Environment Under Nixon Appointees

A Missouri state House committee has agreed to hold hearings on reports that some of Gov. Jay Nixon's department heads created hostile work environments for their employees.

The announcement from Republican House speaker Tim Jones of Eureka came the same week that Gracia Backer, the former head of the state's Division of Employment Security, alleged that she was fired from her job for raising concerns about discrimination in her department.

Earlier this month, the state's associate director of meat and poultry inspection resigned, saying she was tired of working in disrespectful and intimidating conditions. Nixon replaced director Jon Hagler the next day, though he never said why.

Republican House Speaker Tim Jones wants the House Oversight and Government Accountability committee to make sure that employees have a proper outlet to lodge complaints.

"I'm very concerned with the Nixon administration here," Jones said. "I don't believe that women should be subjected to that, and especially in government, where the taxpayer dollars are at issue."

Gina Mitten of St. Louis County, one of three Democrats on the committee, says lawmakers have more important policy issues to focus on, especially since the legal system is involved with Backer's complaint.

"Nosing around in a pending lawsuit causes me serious concern that whatever the Missouri House of Representatives looks into could actually create more problems in a lawsuit than any assistance to a larger issue," she said."

Nixon's office said in a statement that the governor continues to seek to "foster a highly qualified state workforce that is not only professional in demeanor and inclusive in its composition, but also one that is productive, accountable and consistently meets the high standards taxpayers expect and deserve." 

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann