“Fake news” or unfair reporting?

By Ray McCarty, President and CEO, Associated Industries of Missouri

We received a call Tuesday, August 1, from a CBS Evening News producer wanting to do a story on Senate Bill 43, the employment law reform bill we helped pass in the last legislative session. Specifically, the producer said the story was on the NAACP’s travel advisory.

We agreed to be interviewed by them and they brought a very professional crew into our offices. Ms. Jericka Duncan, an Emmy-nominated CBS News correspondent from New York interviewed me about the bill. She could not have been more professional in her questions and we answered all her questions during the interview.

I emphasized throughout the interview that SB 43 had nothing to do with travel through Missouri and we were curious as to why the NAACP had issued the travel ban. The bill affects only the relationship between employers and their employees and institutes the same standards used in Missouri prior to a 2007 Missouri Supreme Court decision. The bill also uses the same standard used in federal discrimination cases in Missouri and in state courts in many other states. We also explained the caps on damages contained in the bill were very similar to caps on damages in discrimination cases brought under federal law. And the fact the sponsor had filed this bill years before any discrimination charges were ever levied against his business.

Throughout the interview, we gave a reasonable assessment of the bill and its true impact: to reduce frivolous discrimination lawsuits against employers by requiring the plaintiff prove discrimination motivated whatever action was at issue. The bill was necessary because of the Missouri Supreme Court’s previous interpretations that a plaintiff show discrimination was only a “contributing factor” in the employer’s action, shifting the burden of proof to the employer to prove themselves innocent. We explained this bill restores the “innocent until proven guilty” protection for innocent employers and continues to allow those that are truly discriminating against employees to be punished.

We watched as the interview was properly uploaded to New York and was acknowledged as received. The producer explained the story may run later that same day on the CBS Evening News, or perhaps the following morning. Altogether, we spent a couple of hours with the correspondent and crew.

I watched the story on the CBS Evening News that evening, which you may also watch here.  I was surprised that despite our lengthy interview explaining why travelers through Missouri were not affected by the bill, only the NAACP’s views were carried in the two taped interviews they ran in the program: Nimrod Chapel, Jr., president of the Missouri NAACP (and a plaintiff’s attorney that sues businesses); and Pat Rowe Kerr, who recently won a discrimination lawsuit against the state of Missouri. Only one sentence at the end of the article carried our point of view, a brief mention that Governor Greitens said the bill would implement the same standard used by the EEOC in evaluating federal discrimination claims.

Later Tuesday, I received a message from the producer that the story had been bumped for the following morning so they would not be using the footage they shot at our location.

Of course, we have been interviewed by many in the news media before and I am very aware that only a minute or less of the footage is usually used out of an hour long interview. I have resisted writing about this for fear it may look self-serving, so let me be very clear: I don’t care whether they used the footage or not, but it would have been a fair, balanced story if they had at least used the points I made in our lengthy interview. But that did not happen.

No wonder people cannot believe the media version of events. Good journalism should provide balance in a story. We provided the facts, and they were ignored. This is another example of how viewers’ attitudes about subjects are often affected by the news media – and why it is important for all of us as viewers to ask ourselves if what we are viewing is the whole story.

For the record, SB 43 does nothing to impact travel in the State of Missouri. If you would like to read the new law, you may click here for the full text and read it for yourself. The bold language is new language that is added to the law in the bill and language in brackets is deleted by the bill. The law revision is effective August 28, 2017.

Governor Greitens signs Corlew’s expert witness bill

Governor Eric Greitens has signed HB 153, sponsored by Rep. Kevin CorlewGov Greitens signs expert witness bill, that will allow Missouri to join most other states and federal courts in the way they evaluate whether a person testifying in court is an expert or not. The governor signed the bill earlier today at Midland Transport in Jefferson City, MO.

Similar legislation was passed last year and vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon. This bill is different because it will not apply in work comp cases or other cases that do not involve a jury. In reality, the new standard really would have little or no impact in these cases anyway because the judge decides whether the testimony is credible under existing law and the new law expected to be signed today.

Associated Industries of Missouri has long supported correcting the standard in Missouri.

“Missouri’s low standard of evaluating experts in state court is why plaintiffs’ attorneys try to move cases into Missouri state courts,” said Ray McCarty, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri. “The proposed standard works in most other states and is used in federal courts in Missouri. This is a commonsense bill and we applaud the sponsor, Rep. Kevin Corlew, the House and Senate leadership that made this a priority, and Governor Eric Greitens for making this a priority and signing the legislation,” said McCarty.

Click here for the AP story.

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform issued a statement supporting signature of the bill. Associated Industries of Missouri is a proud member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. You may read the statement here.

2012 Business Climate Agenda Unveiled

January 3, 2012 – Associated Industries of Missouri and many other business organizations are joining forces to improve the business climate in Missouri in the 2012 legislative session that begins tomorrow.

Business leaders present 2012 Business Climate Agenda

“These common sense tools will make Missouri a better place to do business – for our existing employers and for future employers in the Show-Me State,” said Ray McCarty, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Missouri, at today’s press conference in the Missouri Capitol.

McCarty explained the group’s efforts for employment law reform: “The goal is to make sure we observe the federal standard in discrimination cases. Employers should be held liable for discrimination only when discrimination is a “motivating” factor in the employers decision. Whistle-blower protection should apply only when the alleged “whistle-blower” is alerting authorities to an illegal act. And employees that are dismissed for violations of federal and state law (including discrimination or harrassment under the Human Rights Act) should not be entitled to unemployment benefits.”

AIM President/CEO Ray McCarty

The group will also address two fixes to the worker’s compensation system in Missouri that will ensure occupational diseases are still covered by the worker’s compensation system and that will prevent employees from suing each other in work comp injury cases. Combined in the same bill will be reforms to the Second Injury Fund that will dramatically reduce expenditures from the Fund and reduce employer’s liability for interest on unpaid claims with modest increases in the Fund surcharge. “The idea that someone can be 150% disabled and still working makes no sense,” said McCarty. “AIM members are simply fed up with the current system and believe we must end this absurdity.”

Finally, the group will push for tort reform that will attempt to reduce frivolous lawsuits by instituting a “one-way loser pays” system – if a plaintiff files a lawsuit and loses, they must pay the attorney’s fees of the defendant.  The legislation will also protect business owners when illegal trespassers are injured on the premises of the business.

Associated Industries of Missouri will also pursue other agenda items in addition to those supported by this group.  We will write about those in the coming weeks.  If you have any questions or would like to assist us in our efforts, please call us at 573-634-2246 and ask for membership information.

Photos courtesy of Rachel Groner, Associated Industries of Missouri (c) 2012, used by permission.