May 9, 2018 – Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM) President/CEO Ray McCarty provided the only business testimony against two bills at a hearing regarding HB 2100 and HB 1360. The identical bills would expand Missouri’s Human Rights Act to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity. AIM opposes all legislation that would create new ways to sue employers.
“Associated Industries of Missouri has a policy opposing any legislation that would create new ways to sue employers,” said McCarty. “The bills before you would do just that. The language in the bill is intended to create a new cause of action against employers that are accused of discriminating against a person because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We object to the creation of this new cause of action and also point out the broad language used in the bills will make it difficult, if not impossible, for an employer to comply with the law,” he said.
Associated Industries of Missouri believes such a statute could be used by disgruntled employees to sue employers and force settlements when the employer has NOT discriminated against such employees. AIM encourages companies to establish policies that fit with their company culture, welcome all employees and make their workplaces safe. But AIM is opposed to establishing such a right by statute because we fear abuse by disgruntled employees or former employees that may claim they are a member of the newly created class, some of which may only make that claim to get a big settlement from their employer.
What would an employer do if a disgruntled employee anticipates an action by the employer and announces to the employer that he/she is about to transition to the opposite sex and wants to begin to use the restroom of the opposite sex? How does an employer protect other employees and avoid a lawsuit if this language becomes law? While this may be an extreme example, anyone who has ever employed anyone knows some disgruntled employees will do anything for a large settlement.
McCarty pointed out the language in the bill is extremely broad. The language creates a situation that could potentially cover every employee. For example, the definition of “sexual orientation” in the bill reads as follows:
“Sexual orientation, one’s actual or perceived emotional or physical attraction to, or romantic or physical relationships with, members of the same gender, members of a different gender, or members of any gender; or the lack of any emotional or physical attraction to, or romantic or physical relationships with, anyone. The term, ‘sexual orientation’ includes a history of such attraction or relationship or a history of no such attraction or relationship.”
The problem of defining the terms, “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” without allowing those definitions to be exploited in lawsuits against employers is a real problem with both bills.
AIM has maintained a consistent approach of opposing any bill that expands lawsuits against employers, including HB 1360 and HB 2100.