We have been hearing from some elected representatives they are opposed to a bill that is the centerpiece of tort reform in Missouri: the employment law reform bill, Senate Bill 43. Claims that this bill would allow discrimination in Missouri and punish whistleblowers is simply wrong.
Several Republicans who usually vote on the business side of legislative issues and in many ways are very helpful to the business community don’t like this bill. Why? Some have been confused by sharp attorneys that make their living suing people and businesses. These plaintiffs’ attorneys like the current system because it allows creative attorneys to use the low standard of proof in Missouri state courts to bring frivolous cases against employers. Employers are then left to defend themselves in costly lawsuits. Some employers have testified in legislative hearings they cannot afford to continue winning these cases because they have to pay attorneys large sums to defend themselves. While some attorneys may like the current system, employers and other victims of these lawsuits are left paying the bill.
The employment law reform bill, Senate Bill 43, is not something brand new that was dreamed up by malicious employers that are eager to discriminate against employees, as some would have you believe. The bill would bring the same fairness to Missouri state courts that both sides enjoy in federal court, including federal courts in Missouri. The concepts in the bill are not new. They are concepts that are already part of federal law.
Associated Industries of Missouri has long advocated for employment law reform. Changing the currently unfair “contributing factor” standard of proof to one that requires the plaintiff employee prove the employer was “motivated” by discrimination when taking the action is fairer. It protects employees that are victims of discrimination, but also gives employers that are not motivated by discrimination in their actions protection from frivolous lawsuits.
Whistleblower statutes were meant to protect people that see an employer is doing something illegal and report it. But today, the statute is used by employees that allege the employer has committed, or is about to commit, an act they believe is a crime and they (and their attorneys) get big judgments or settlements – even when the employer has done nothing wrong. This abuse of the system must be stopped.
Senate Bill 43 is very similar to bills passed in prior years and repeatedly vetoed by former Governor Jay Nixon, also an attorney. Its time we make our state courts fairer for all who use the legal system. Discrimination in all forms is wrong and should be punished. But employers that are innocent of discrimination should have a fair chance to defend themselves, and this bill ensures that fairness.
Don’t be deceived by the arguments of clever attorneys that don’t necessarily want a fairer system. Senate Bill 43 should be passed by the Missouri House and Governor Greitens should sign the bill to make Missouri courts fairer for everyone.