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St. Louis Missouri Labor & Employment Law Firm | Employment Law Blog | Looming Changes to the Missouri Employment Discrimination Standard
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MISSOURI LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT LAW
Looming Changes To Employment Discrimination Law In Missouri

Looming Changes To The Missouri Employment Discrimination Standard

The Missouri State Senate is currently reviewing a bill which would significantly modify the current employment discrimination standard and damages available in Missouri. The Senate Bill, SB188, modifying the law relating tot he Missouri Human Rights Act and employment discrimination, mirrors a similar bill which previously passed the house on February 24, 2011, HB 205.

'Contributing Factor' Standard Becomes 'Motivating Factor' Standard

The bill will do away with the liberal 'contributing factor' standard under which employment discrimination claims are currently analyzed since the Missouri Supreme Court handed down Daugherty v. City of Maryland Heights, 231 S.W. 3d 814 (Mo. 2007) (en ban). In Daugherty, the Court explained that Missouri employment discrimination law should more closely reflect the plain language of the Missouri Human Rights Act and rely less on analysis developed through federal case law." Daugherty, 231 S.W. 3d at 819. Therein, the Court adopted a liberal standard, stating that if an employee could prove that the employees age, sex, gender, race, national origin or pregnancy was a 'contributing factor' in their employer's decision to take some adverse action the employee may prevail.

However, SB 188 changes the standard to a 'motivating factor' standard and would place the burden of proof under this analysis on the plaintiff-employee. Essentially, employees will have a more difficult time proving that the employer was 'motivated' by the employee's age, sex, gender, race, national origin or pregnancy than proving that the employee's protected status was one of any number of 'contributing factors.'

The actual impact of such a change to the legal standard would likely lead to fewer employment discrimination cases being brought to trial and fewer plaintiff-employees will ultimately prevail on such claims.

No Attorneys Fees for Prevailing Parties

Significantly, under the new law the prevailing plaintiff-employees will no longer be entitled to recover their reasonable attorneys' fees and costs of litigation if they prevail. This unfortunately will alter the incentive for both wronged employees and their attorneys to pursue claims which are unlikely to result in significant damages awarded. Of course each attorney conducts their own cost-benefit analysis of any potential discrimination claim, the costs involved, and the likelihood of prevailing, but the effect of this change will likely be to reduce the number of employment discrimination cases in the State of Missouri.

Whistleblower Damages Capped

Damages awarded to whistleblowers will also be capped and punitive damages are prohibited against the State of Missouri or political subdivisions in Missouri Human Rights Act cases.

Back pay and interest damages in whistleblower cases would not exceed certain amounts based on the number of employees in the company:

  • 5 to 10 employees: $50,000 limit
  • 100 to 200 employees: $100,000 limit
  • 200 to 500 employees: $200,000 limit
  • More than 500 employees: $300,000 limit

Schedule A Consultation To Discuss Your Claim Prior To The Changes Take Effect

If you move quickly to file your claim prior to these changes to the law eventually pass and take effect you may have a better chance of prevailing. Contact Attorney Jason M. Finkes to schedule a consultation and discuss how the proposed changes to the Missouri Human Rights Act could affect your claim. Please call (314) 645-4100 or fill out our simple contact form and we will contact you about your claim as soon as possible.

 

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