Discrimination measure goes to Mo. governor - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Discrimination measure goes to Mo. governor

By WES DUPLANTIER
Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Black senators in Missouri, fearful of reversing decades of hard-fought civil rights gains, said Wednesday they will try to prevent a final vote that would send to the governor a measure to change the state's workplace discrimination laws.

The legislation pending in the Senate would require workers who bring wrongful termination lawsuits to prove discrimination was a "motivating factor" - not simply a contributing factor - in the employer's action. The legislation also would apply to other wrongful discrimination actions, such as the denial of promotions.

In cases where employers were found to have wrongfully discriminated, punitive damages would be tied to the number of employees the company has, with a maximum of $300,000. Political subdivisions, such as city governments, would not be liable for any punitive damages.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed similar legislation last year, which Republicans managed to pass despite similar Democratic opposition. Democrats in both the House and Senate have said they are confident Nixon will also veto this year's measure. A spokesman for Nixon declined to comment on the governor's position Wednesday night.

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-St. Louis County, said Wednesday that she intends to speak for several hours against the bill. She said it would roll back decades of civil rights progress aimed at protecting women, minorities and people with disabilities from being treated unfairly at their jobs.

"I believe with every part of my being that there are vulnerable people who are challenged, who have things taken from them," she said. "I believe that if this bill goes into effect that we will have a justice system and that those people would not have an avenue to go through."

The House passed the legislation last month in an 89-68 vote. The Senate must pass the bill for it to go to Nixon. Republicans, who largely support the measure in the Senate, hold a veto-proof majority there, but not the House.

Led by Sen. Brad Lager, Republicans have said the Senate bill would merely bring Missouri in line with federal job discrimination standards and could make the state more appealing to businesses.

Rep. Kevin Elmer, the House sponsor of the measure currently pending before the Senate, said the "motivating factor" standard is too broad.

"We are so out of line with the federal law and other states that you can't really justify saying that we're a business-friendly state," said Elmer, R-Nixa.

Democrats blocked a Senate vote for about 15 hours on a nearly identical bill five weeks ago, making many of the same arguments they did Wednesday night.

They allowed the measure to come to a late-night vote after the bill's supporters agreed to strip out provisions that covered summary judgment, a legal procedure that allows a lawsuit to be decided before it is heard by a jury.

The bill pending before the Senate also does not include provisions dealing with summary judgment.

Workplace Discrimination bill is HB1219

Online:

Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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