Discrimination Déjà Vu
Posted on March 10, 2012 by Megan Burke
Employment should be based on our skills, knowledge and experience. We expect protection against discrimination on the basis of disability, gender, race, religion, etc. In the past, Missouri has made its own decisions as a state to build on federal laws such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Once again, actions by the Missouri legislature threaten to undo the progress we made as a state and weaken the protections meant to give all Missourians a chance to do their jobs without fear of discrimination.
We are right back where we were last year. On March 8th, the employment discrimination bill, HB1219, was passed by the Senate and delivered to Governor Nixon. The Missouri legislature has demonstrated by their vote for HB1219 that they support protecting businesses over Missouri’s workforce. They support measures which make discrimination in the work place easier, including discrimination of workers with disabilities.
By passing HB1219, they have made it legal for employers to commit discriminatory employment actions, even if a person’s disability is a contributing factor in that action. Now a person’s disability has to be the motivating factor for discrimination, which is harder to prove. In addition, employers will be less able to hold employees who discriminate accountable for their actions.
Another provision in HB1219 is the Whistleblower Protection Act, which makes it unlawful for an employer to fire or retaliate against a worker who reports illegal acts on the job. It is important to protect employees who step up and report wrongful doing at their job, but this Whistleblower Protection Act creates disincentives to reporting. There are no protections for employees who report an act they believe is unlawful, but actually is not. They must know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the act they are reporting is illegal. In addition, for an employee to be covered by the whistleblower protections, they have to report the wrongdoing to the “proper authorities”. The list of “proper authorities” is limited, and does not include one’s supervisor or management.
People who support HB1219 would have you believe this law is necessary to help develop more jobs in Missouri. But, is it necessary to sacrifice the rights of the work force to create more jobs? Does allowing discrimination in the work place strengthen our work force? Instead of fortifying barriers to employment, we should be creating laws that encourage employment of people with disabilities.
Last year a similar bill was passed by the Missouri legislature and vetoed by Governor Nixon. HB1219 is now on the Governor’s desk. Once again, he has the opportunity to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities and all Missourians. Tell Governor Nixon to veto HB1219.