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Expected August 28, 2017
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On May 9, 2017, a bill seeking to amend the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) passed the Missouri legislature and is now headed to Governor Greiten’s desk where it is expected to be signed into law. If enacted, Senate Bill 43 would implement significant changes to several employment regulations, and would go into effect on August 28, 2017. Highlights of these changes include:
- Causation Standard: Currently, the Committee on Jury Instructions relies on a “contributing factor” standard. This broad standard has been interpreted to mean a protected category or activity “contributed a share in anything or has a part in producing the effect.” SB 43 introduces the “motivating factor” standard instead, defined as “the employee’s protected classification actually played a role in the adverse action or decision and had a determinative influence on the adverse decision or action.”
- Individual Liability: SB 43 removes individual, personal liability for a violation of the MHRA. This amendment also supports diversity jurisdiction when suing foreign corporations, allowing cases to be moved to federal court, rather than constrained in Missouri state courts.
- Punitive Damages: SB 43 implements a cap for punitive damages, rather than the current floating cap (the greater of $500,000 or five times the actual damages recovered). The new caps for damages awarded under the MHRA—excluding attorney’s fees—cannot exceed actual back pay and interest, plus certain dollar amounts tied to the employer size, starting at $50,000 for employers of more than 5, but fewer than 100. The highest cap is set at $500,000 for employers of over 500 employees.
- Timeliness of Discrimination Claims: SB 43 requires employees to file a discrimination claim within 180 days of the alleged act. Failure to file a timely claim results in the Missouri courts’ lack of jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit.
- Wrongful Discharge: SB 43 removes the “contributing factor” standard for wrongful discharge claims related to retaliation for whistleblowing. It codifies the wrongful discharge claim in the Whistleblower Protection Act, provides back pay, medical bills, liquidated damages, and attorney’s fees.
In relation to these changes, SB 43 also abrogates select, previous judicial decisions:
- McBryde v. Ritenour School District
- Daugherty v. City of Maryland Heights
- Hurst v. Kansas City Mo. School District
- Thomas v. McKeever Enterprises
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Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.
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