Debate: Workplace Discrimination Laws in Missouri

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —  After a relatively short debate, the Missouri Senate voted 25 to 8 Tuesday in favor of a bill that would set Missouri’s workplace discrimination standards back nearly 50 years.

According to the Missouri News Horizon, the bill, which now heads to the House of Representatives, would change the definition of workplace discrimination to put it back in line with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which states that an employee’s legally protected status must be a motivating factor in workplace discrimination. Current Missouri case law establishes that protected status such as race, religion or gender need only be a contributing factor to prove discrimination.

If signed into law, this legislation would make it tougher for employees to prove they’ve been discriminated against in the workplace. Senate Republicans backing the legislation, like bill sponsor Brad Lager, R-Savannah, say it would put Missouri back on an equal footing with other states and help attract more out-of-state businesses to Missouri.

But opponents like Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis, who led a 15-hours filibuster against the legislation last week, say its a blow to civil rights in Missouri. During last week’s filibuster, Senate Democrats were successful in adding an amendment to the bill to ensure the right to jury trial in discrimination cases.

The bill is likely to pass the House, where Republicans easily outnumber Democrats and where the option to filibuster legislation does not exist. But even if the legislation makes it through the general assembly, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon may veto it like he did with similar legislation last year.

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