Missouri Lawmakers split on employment discrimination bill

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JEFFERSON CITY - A bill that would dismantle employment non-discrimination protections is causing disagreement between democrats and republicans in the Missouri Legislature.

The Missouri Human Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate in housing, employment and places of public accommodations based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, age (in employment only), and familial status (in housing only). Senate Bill 43 would amend the current Human Rights Act, and opponents say it would make it easier to fire someone in a discriminatory matter.

Today, another hearing was held for people to testify on the bill. Several lawyers voiced their opinions in favor of the bill, while plaintiffs involved in employment discrimination cases voiced their concerns. 

One main disagreement between the two sides is the language: "a motivating factor" or "a contributing factor." People in favor of the bill want to change the language to a motivating factor, while the other side wants to keep the language the same. 

"I believe this law will have legal claims to follow through and frivolous claims to go away," Lawyer Dan O'Keefe said. "Rooting out employment discrimination we should hold the employer accountable... individual accountability for all individuals."

On the other hand, Jacques Anthony Hughes, who won his employment discrimination case, thinks there needs to be a higher level of accountability. 

"They're saying that individuals cannot be held accountable if they work for a company, but in fact the individuals represent the company so why isn't there an accountability factor," Hughes said. 

Hughes along with several other employment discrimination plaintiffs testified with their personal stories. Many had been fired or "let go" because of discriminatory reasons that were undermined. 

The bill is still in the hearing stage.