Why Does Missouri Need MONA?
Attraction of a diverse and highly-skilled workforce is one of the Chamber’s three strategic goals. However, in Missouri, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can be fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, and denied access to public accommodations and services without violating state discrimination or civil rights laws. The Missouri Non-Discrimination Act (MONA) adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in Missouri law that may not be discriminated against. This addition would bring Missouri law in line with over 20 other states, a dozen Missouri municipalities, and the policies of nearly all Fortune 500 companies, providing considerable support to our efforts to make St. Louis a more inclusive and welcoming community and allowing our businesses to attract and retain the best talent.
PROMO, the lead interest group in Missouri advocating for MONA, says that an estimated 160,000 Missourians would benefit from the act’s protections. In addition to the direct positive impact MONA will bring to workplaces by improving diversity and helping to attract top talent from out-of-state, PROMO notes that similar laws and policies are sweeping the country on a grassroots level, demonstrating that more and more Americans are choosing to enshrine equality for all under the law.
- Currently 21 states plus DC have non-discrimination protections covering employment, housing and public accommodations.
- Over 94% of Fortune 500 companies already have these policies.
- Within Missouri, more than a dozen municipalities across the state have updated local ordinances to include sexual orientation and gender identity; however this only counts for a little over a 1/3 of the state population.
- PROMO has assembled a list of more than 500 businesses that support adding those protections in Missouri. Major business supporters include Monsanto, Bryan Cave, Express Scripts, Thompson Coburn, JP Morgan Chase, Pfizer, Pinnacle Entertainment, and ConAgra Foods. Their written statements of support focus on diversity, inclusion, and being welcoming in their efforts to recruit talent.
- In the 2013 session a MONA bill passed out of the Missouri Senate by 19-11 with 9 Republicans joining the 10 Democrats in support. The bill was not taken up by the Missouri House.
Why Does Missouri Need Employment Law Reform?
At the same time, a series of court decisions over the past decade has eroded the intent of Missouri’s employment law, tipping the scales against employers. Missouri ranked 29th in a CNBC analysis of the best states to do businesses in based on “business friendliness” – a combination of regulatory burdens and the state’s legal and tort liability system. The Institute for Legal Reform ranked the state’s legal liability system even lower, at 34th in the nation.
A key concern stems from Missouri’s employment law using a low standard for deciding a case under the Missouri Human Rights Act. Current laws make it difficult for meritless cases to be dismissed and set the standard of proof extremely low for discrimination cases. The increased number of lawsuits and likelihood of going to trial results in higher costs for businesses, both from expensive settlements and costly and time-consuming litigation.
For several years the Chamber has supported reforms to strengthen and restore balance to the state’s employment laws. A strong employment law reform bill will keep significant protections to employees, provide employers with clarity regarding potential liabilities and the ability to avoid meritless litigation, and improve Missouri’s ability to attract new employers and help existing businesses grow. Despite support for employment law reform in both chambers of the Missouri legislature, Governor Nixon vetoed bills in 2012 and would likely oppose other efforts at passing reform legislation. A reasonable reform package could include:
- Limiting individual liability of managers and supervisors
- Mirroring the federal standard of proof in discrimination cases
- Tightening whistleblower protection so that it applies only in cases when an employee alerts authorities to an actual illegal act
- Implementing reasonable damage caps
- Restoring a reasonable threshold for the use of summary judgment in discrimination cases