NAACP explains why it issued Missouri state travel advisory
JEFFERSON CITY - The NAACP is warning Missouri residents and those who may come into the state to be aware of concerns the organization has about civil rights.
President of the Missouri Chapter of the NAACP, Nimrod Chapel Jr., said the travel advisory is meant to act as any travel advisory would.
"It's a travel advisory in the fundamental sense," he said. "It warns citizens either in the state or to be coming to the state that they should be aware of some issues that could affect their civil rights in Missouri."
Chapel said those affected by these issues are wide ranging.
"It's not just a color issue," Chapel said. "It's not necessarily an are you black or are you white. It's are you a person of faith, are you disabled, or perceived as such, are you a female, a senior citizen. Those are the types of issues, that bring people concern," he said.
The organization cites the recent passing of Senate Bill 43 as a main reason for the advisory. The bill changes the standard for filing employee discrimination lawsuits. In the past, the person's race, gender, age, disability or other protected class distinction needed to be a contributing factor to their termination. Now, it needs to be the motivating factor.
"Missouri state government has taken a huge step, in my view, and in the NAACP's view, in the wrong direction to allow more discriminatory conduct," Chapel said. "Senate Bill 43 increases the level of proof that's required, now on the outside people might say 'oh, that's good,' but the reality is that it will be one of the highest, if not the highest, standard in the United States."
"Individuals can no longer be sued," he said "They can't be held accountable for the discriminatory and harassing conduct that they engage in. That's un-American."
Sen. Gary Romine, R- Farmington, sponsored the bill and said lawmakers are trying to create a balance.
"Basically what we’re doing is creating a better legal environment for the employer and more consistent for the employee comparing to other states at the federal level.”
Romine also said this will put Missouri more in line with surrounding states.
"It is making it harder or more strict to file employment discrimination, and this is a result of all of the frivolous lawsuits that we’ve seen over the number of years," he said. "It also brings us more in balance, more in line with the Federal Standards of the EEOC and the state discrimination acts in the states that surround us.”
Chapel disagreed with this statement.
"To act like Missouri is joining the federal standard is disingenuous, and to tell the Missouri public that that's what we're doing, I don't think is right," he said. "Because not only is that not the truth, we know it's not the truth."
Chapel said the difference between 'a' motivating factor and 'the' motivating factor can make a huge difference.
"Missouri will now use the motivating factor," he said. "Other states, some states have adopted a motivating factor so there can be a number of factors, and this is, you know one of them, as opposed to the motivating factor."
Former State of Missouri Veterans Ombudsman Pat Rowe Kerr, who is currently going through her own wrongful termination lawsuit, said this bill is not good for Missouri.
"There is nothing that can help Senate Bill 43 except for a revision of Senate Bill 43," she said. "I think that it gives carte blanche to supervisors to be discriminatory."
The NAACP also cited the recent Vehicle Stops Report data as a reason for the advisory.
"If you're a motorist on the road, and you happen to be a person of color, well we've got statistics that say over a 16 year period, culminating this year, you're 75 percent more likely to be stopped than a person who is not of color," he said. "That is significant."
In Columbia alone, there was a disparity rate of 3.13 between black drivers and white drivers. This means that black drivers are three times more likely to be stopped by police, based on the data.
"This isn't about any kind of a privilege or any additional thing that a person would get, this is about whether we as human beings should be treated fairly and equally," Chapel said.
The NAACP said the travel advisory is in place until at least August 28 of this year, which is the same day Senate Bill 43 goes into effect.