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Missouri Senate attempts to reverse part of discrimination law

Whistleblowers will get the protection they deserve after the Missouri Senate unanimously passed a bill that undid a portion of a law enacted last year making it difficult to file a discrimination lawsuit. The House, however, still must review the legislation.

A law implemented last year changed the standard for proving workplace discrimination. The Republican-dominated legislature rallied around the law, citing that it would boost business activity, create more jobs and limit thoughtless lawsuits. The law, however, removed protections for state and local government employees who reported misconduct in the workplace.

Revisions that would boost the bill

It was a shortcoming that Democrats seized upon, criticizing that such lack of protections meant whistleblowers would be less likely to come forward with knowledge of corruption. Sponsored by Sen. Jill Schupp, a Democrat, the Senate bill:

  • Allows employees to report misconduct to prosecutors, law enforcement, reporters and the public.
  • Guarantees employees’ right to testify about such disclosures in front of a court and administrative and legislative bodies.
  • Extends the deadline in two key areas. Workers will have a year to report disciplinary actions against them, rather than 30 days. Also, they will have a year to file a lawsuit, rather than the 90 days featured in the current law.
  • Expands the scope of information that can be shared.

Current law troubling in other ways

Last year’s law also changed the state’s standard of proof regarding discrimination, requiring that an employee needed to prove that race “motivated” his or her firing. This portion caused troubles for Missouri on the federal front.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development declared that the Missouri law did not comply with federal standards in the Fair Housing Act, and suspended St. Louis from a federal program that helped low-income residents gain affordable housing. That state would lose nearly a half-million dollars.

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