Missouri Human Rights Act Amended

The Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) is the state law equivalent of Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on a number of protected characteristics – namely race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability status or genetic information. The MHRA also prohibited employment discrimination based on those characteristics. It was unique, however, because for the past several years it required a person suing under the MHRA to prove that a protected characteristic was a “contributing factor” to an employment decision; Title VII and the majority of other state laws require the protected characteristic to be a “motivating factor.”

The difference between “contributing factor” and “motivating factor” may be semantics, but many employment law attorneys believe the former is a less rigorous requirement. The MHRA now requires claimants to show that their protected classification “actually played a role in the adverse decision or action and had a determinative influence on the adverse decision or action.”

The Amendments also remove individual liability from the MHRA and impose caps on compensatory and punitive damages. Previously, a claimant could sue not only his or her employer, but also the person responsible for taking the discriminatory action or for permitting it to take place. Now, the MHRA excludes from the definition of employer “an individual employed by an employer.” The MHRA also uses a sliding scale to cap damages awarded in addition to back pay based on the employer’s size. The caps range from $50,000 (for employers with 5-99 employees) to $500,000 (for employers with more than 500 employees).

Ogletree Deakins attorneys Burton Garland, Robert Stewart and James Paul have summarized the MHRA Amendments.

The new provisions take effect August 28, 2017.

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