Skyline
Issue Background

Tort Reform

Fair employment laws protect workers and promote employer flexibility and economic growth.  Employers should not be subjected to burdensome laws or regulations that generate litigation and penalties instead of jobs.  The Chamber supports policies that will strengthen the region’s business climate by ensuring employers are provided a just, efficient and consistent legal system.

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.  Recently, St. Louis was named the #1 “judicial hellhole” by the American Tort Reform Foundation.

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, time-consuming litigation. 

 

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
  • Litigation venue reform to close a loophole in Missouri’s law that permits out-of-state plaintiffs to combine claims with local residents

 

For several years the Chamber has supported reforms to strengthen and restore balance to the state’s employment laws.  Strong employment law reform bills will keep significant protections for 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.