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Missouri law raises standards in discrimination cases

Victims of workplace discrimination in Missouri may no longer sue their tormentors, just the employer, according to a law that went into effect last summer. The law also limits punitive damages the victims may seek, and alters the state’s whistleblower laws including removing protections for state employees.

Supporters of the law stress that the changes should reduce absurd lawsuits and boost the state’s business climate by benefiting out-of-state companies. Critics view it as a step backward toward protecting workers from losing their jobs when discriminated against based on their sex, race, religion, age or disability.

In line with many other states

Workplace sexual harassment has received a great amount of attention lately. With that in mind, news of Missouri’s law – in place since August – may make people wonder the purpose of its existence. The law triggered quite a debate, and a number of opponents recommended that Gov. Eric Greitens veto it, but he signed the bill last June.

The change brings Missouri’s litigation laws in line with dozens of other states, and sets liability standards that are used in federal courts. While the alleged harasser cannot be sued, his or her name may appear in court documents, but not as the defendant.

Sensitive aspects

Other sensitive points to the law exist, too. It requires workers – who claim discrimination in wrongful-termination lawsuits – must prove that bias was the explicit reason they were fired. Previously, workers only had to prove that bias was a contributing factor.

Some now believe that the law shields workplace sexual harassers, making it easier for them to go unpunished, so predatory co-workers or bosses will no longer be held legally accountable.

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