May 9, 2017
Authored by: Charles Jellinek
Today, the Missouri House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 43, which makes significant changes to the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”), Missouri’s fair employment practices law. Having now passed both Chambers, Senate Bill 43 now goes to Governor Greitens desk for approval. Senate Bill 43 makes a number of important changes to the MHRA:
Burden of Proof Changed to Motivating Factor
The burden of proof on claims under the MHRA is changed to “motivating factor.” In 2003, the Missouri Supreme Court held there was a right to a jury trial under the MHRA. In 2005, an advisory committee on Missouri’s jury instructions considered the need for a new instruction for claims under the MHRA, and ultimately recommended that the burden of proof for claims under the MHRA be “contributing factor.” The Supreme Court adopted that recommendation, and in Daughtery v. City of Maryland Heights, 213 S.W.3d 814 (Mo. banc 2007) held that this standard must be applied to MHRA discrimination claims, and in Hill v. Ford Motor Co., 277 S.W3d 659 (Mo. banc 2009) held that this standard must be applied to MHRA retaliation claims. Since then, there have been numerous efforts in the Missouri Legislature to undo those decisions requiring use of the contributing factor standard. Twice legislation was passed by both chambers, but Governor Nixon vetoed those bills in 2011 and 2012.
Under Senate Bill 43, where the MHRA says it is unlawful to discriminate “because of” a protected characteristic, “because of” means “as