House votes to change state discrimination laws
Friday, February 25, 2011
The Missouri House passed legislation Thursday that could make it harder for employees to win workplace discrimination lawsuits.
The legislation, approved by 95-59 vote, would require people to prove that discrimination was the “motivating factor” when they were fired, rather than a “contributing factor.” The bill now goes to the Senate.
Federal courts use the motivating factor standard in employer discrimination lawsuits. Missouri used the standard until 2008, when the state Supreme Court said the contributing factor standard could be applied to a lawsuit filed by a former police office against the city of Maryland Heights.
The bill passed Thursday would also limit which businesses can be sued and the amount of damages that people can recover. The legislation defines an “employer” — for the purpose of discrimination lawsuits — as someone who employs at least six people for at least 20 weeks of the year.
The proposal also sets a scale for the maximum amount of damages that people can recover — as much as $300,000 plus any back pay they are owed after being fired.
The proposed law also includes a section called the Whistleblower Protection Act. Because Missouri is an “at-will” employment state, workers can be fired at any time and without notice. The protection act puts into statute exceptions to that “at-will” status that the courts have made for people who report acts of wrongdoing at their company, called “whistleblowers.” The proposal says that employers can ask for a jury trial in whistleblower cases and it limits damages a plaintiff can receive to $300,000 plus back pay.
Senate passes voter photo ID amendment
The Missouri Senate has passed a proposed constitutional amendment allowing voters to be required to show photo identification.
The 26-7 vote Thursday split along party lines, with all Republicans backing the measure and all Democrats opposing it. The measure now heads to the House, where passage would put it on the 2012 statewide ballot.
This marks Missouri’s second attempt at requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote.
The state Supreme Court struck down a 2006 photo ID law as an infringement on the fundamental right to vote guaranteed by the Missouri Constitution.
Lawmakers taking aim again at synthetic drugs
Missouri lawmakers are poised to make another run at outlawing some synthetic drugs.
Missouri was among more than dozen states last year that banned a synthetic form of marijuana known as K2, which is a concoction of dried herbs sprayed with chemicals.
But before the law even took effect, alternatives were hitting the market that had made slight changes to the synthetic formula and thus got around the new law.
Republican Rep. Ward Franz of West Plains is sponsoring legislation this year that would add more synthetic cannabinoids to the outlawed list. The bill also would outlaw a synthetic form of cocaine that is being sold as bath salts in some Missouri stores.