Workplace discrimination bill passes committee and heads to house floor

8 months 12 hours 38 minutes ago Monday, April 10 2017 Apr 10, 2017 Monday, April 10, 2017 7:08:00 PM CDT April 10, 2017 in News
By: Ben Brady, KOMU 8 Digital Reporter, Meg Hilling, KOMU 8 Reporter

JEFFERSON CITY – How Missourians pursue workplace discrimination cases in court could soon change, following the passing of a hotly debated Senate bill by a House committee Monday.

Under Senate Bill 43, sponsored by Rep. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, Missourians pursuing discrimination lawsuits would be required to prove that protected statuses, such as race and religion, were motivating factors for action against them, instead of just contributing factors. This means Missourians would have to prove intent in order for their case to stand a chance in court. 

Fierce debate over the bill has gone on for weeks, prompting Rep. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, and the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus to hold a press conference in opposition of it prior to the House’s Special Litigation Committee hearing Monday afternoon.

"This law inhibits our ability to hold employers who create a hostile work environment accountable," Roberts said. 

Initially, controversy surrounding the bill was sparked when Rod Chapel, Missouri’s NAACP President, spoke in opposition of the proposed legislation during its first reading by the same House committee. It was during this hearing Chapel was silenced by Rep. Bill Lant, R-Pineville, while giving his testimony.

The committee passed the bill with a 8-5 vote opening the door for it to go to the House floor for a final vote. Lant, who is also chair of the committee, expressed confidence in the bill following the decision. 

"I don't think it will make it any harder for the pursuer of a discrimination," Lant said. "I think it will make it harder for those who wish to mess with the system." 

Six amendments were proposed that would have modified the bill, all of which failed. No date has been set for the bill's next appearance on the House floor. 

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