Missouri's "Employment At-Will Doctrine" Letter (State)
Associated Industries of Missouri
3234 W. Truman Blvd.
Jefferson City, MO 65109
The Honorable Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon
Governor of the State of Missouri
P.O. Box 720
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Dear Governor Nixon:
I am writing to ask for your signature of House Bill 1219,sponsored by Representative Kevin Elmer.
House Bill 1219 protects Missouri’s employers from frivolous discrimination lawsuits. The bill requires plaintiffs to prove that discrimination was the “motivating factor” in the employee’s dismissal, asopposed to today’s standard that simply requires discrimination to be a “contributingfactor”. While we agree discrimination should not be tolerated in any amount, an employer is placed in an impossible position of defending themselves against the current low standard. Plaintiffs’ attorneys may argue to a jury that the fact the employer knew the employee was a member of a protected class means that discrimination must have played even a miniscule role in theemployment action or dismissal decision. Using the more appropriate federal standard requires the plaintiff to prove the employer acted “because of” discrimination. This is the standard that should be observed in Missouri – the standard used in other states.
If an employer is found guilty of discrimination, current Missourilaw allows payment for back pay, attorney fees, court costs, and unlimited punitive damages. The bill caps punitive damages at the amount allowed under federal law, which we believe is appropriate.
Consistent with the core principles of our U.S. legal system, Missouri’s employers should be considered innocent until proven guilty, butover the last ten years, Missouri’s courts have strayed from this legalprinciple and awarded “whistle blower” status to employees that were alerting authorities to activity that was not illegal, resulting in costly judgments against employers. House Bill 1219 would ensure persons claiming “whistle blower” protection under the law are truly alerting authorities to a potential action by the employer that violates a statute,regulation or public policy. Current law, as interpreted by the courts, allows “whistle blower” status to employees even if the employer was not contemplating an action that violates law, regulation or public policy. We believe this change is vital to protect employers from frivolous “whistle blower” claims.
We respectfully ask for your approval of House Bill 1219. If you, or your staff, have any questions, please feel free to contact me.