'Workplace discrimination' bill advances

Republican Luann Ridgeway joined the state Senate’s eight Democrats on Thursday in voting against a bill modifying state law regarding workplace discrimination and whistle-blowers’ protections.

But those nine votes were only half the number needed to block the bill — and the Senate sent the measure to the House on a 25-9 vote.

“(This bill) realigns Missouri’s employment law with the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964,” sponsor Brad Lager, R-Savannah, told colleagues before their vote. “It puts us right back to where Missouri practiced law for 40 years, before the judges of this state changed that.”

The proposal is one of the state business community’s “Fix the 6” priority bills that, it says, will make Missouri more competitive and more attractive to new businesses and jobs.

Senators gave the measure first-round approval last week, and Lager was the only one to defend it Thursday.

But several lawmakers urged its defeat.

“I think this is a really bad idea for Missouri,” said Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City. “We are in a situation now where we are going to make it very easy for employers to discriminate in this state.

“And they are going to be able to say, ‘Well, the maximum penalty I’m going to have to pay on this is just $50,000, so if I want to fire this person who’s just been diagnosed with cancer, I could probably save a lot on medical costs over the next few years.’”

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