Leveling the Playing Field for Employers in Missouri

By Hilary Atkins posted 05-15-2017 08:36 AM


Missouri employers take heart! On May 9, 2017, the Missouri legislature passed a significant set of amendments to the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), which will bring the state back into the mainstream of employment discrimination law.

Missouri Bill 43 introduces a number of changes to the MHRA, aligning items such as discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the employment context with federal laws on the same. The changes include raising employees’ standard of proof, capping punitive damages, protecting employer’s supervisors from being named as individual defendants under the MHRA, and codifying retaliatory actions which previously had not statutory limitations.

Here are summaries of the amendments to the MHRA in very general terms:

  • The MHRA amendments change the causation standard in discrimination lawsuits from being based upon a “contributing factor” to a “motivating factor”, thereby minimizing what employers must defend in court;
  • The MHRA amendments remove individual liability in an overall employer context, and the supervisors can no longer be held personally liable;
  • Formerly “cap-free” under the MHRA, amendments put into place caps for damages that are floating. Damages start at $50,000 for smaller employers and increase gradually to $500,000 for employers of 501 or more; and
  • Formerly not subject to any statutory limitations, the amendments codify wrongful discharge claims under the Whistleblower Protection Act, which protects an employee who: 1) reports an employer’s unlawful act to the proper authorities; 2) reports to the employer serious misconduct in violation of a clear mandate of public policy found in the constitution, statue, or regulation; or 3) refuses to carry out an employer’s unlawful directive.

If Governor Eric Greitens signs the bill, it will become law effective on August 28, 2017.