During this era when the behavior of the likes of Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, and Predator- in-Chief Donald Trump is coming to light, it is important that everyone, especially women, know what to expect in the workplace and what recourse they have when they suffer sexual harassment and/or discrimination.
One would think that Missouri, recognizing the struggles of workers, would want to provide further protections for workers. To the contrary, in the last legislative session, Missouri’s lawmakers chose to decrease the protections of workers and lessened their ability to recover financially if the employer is found to have committed unlawful behavior.
The main change and the most exciting for employers is that the new law does away with Missouri’s “contributing factor” standard for adverse employment decisions. The “contributing factor” standard has been relatively easy for employees to meet. Employees needed to show only that discrimination contributed to termination, demotion. Under the new version of the law, the employee plaintiff will be required to establish that the claimed act of unlawful bias was a “motivating factor” for the challenged employment decision. This change makes it much harder for employees to prove discrimination.
The other ways Missouri has just harmed employees is by creating limitations on the amount of money employees can recover if the employees prevail against the employers after make it past all the hurtles in the law. For most small to medium size employers, employees can recover only $50,000 for emotional distress.
Missouri law has not gotten better for women suffering sexual harassment in the workplace, still one of the most common forms of discrimination. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination based on sexually explicit behavior. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment only when such conduct creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment. This is where the sexual conduct is so pervasive or severe that it creates an abusive working environment. So, in other words, it needs to be very, very bad. It is also not lawful for an employer to make sex a condition of employment or promotion, which is really the least lawmakers can do for women.