Nothing that happened this spring in the Missouri General Assembly is likely to change opinions about whether legislation that helps businesses also can be good for workers.
As a society, we’re fractured on this issue. Deep-seated feelings will not change overnight. It’s best for each side to find a path forward and move on.
That path, however, is affected by real-world events, including the GOP-majority legislature’s success in passing an array of bills supported by business.
If in fact these laws also prove to be of benefit to workers — particularly in the potential to spur business growth in the state — then perhaps over time opinions will change.
Among the proposals approved at the close of the legislative session:
■ A new standard for discrimination lawsuits.
This will require people suing for discrimination to prove an issue such as race, gender, age or ability was “the motivating factor” for firing or discipline, rather than just a contributing factor.
Critics complained Missouri had an abnormally low standard, making the state “one of the easiest places in the nation to sue a company and win.” They further claimed this hurt the state’s ability to attract new employers.
The new standard is said to be the same used in 38 other states and by the federal government.
■ Limits on windfall damage awards.
The new law will allow courts to consider whether a plaintiff’s losses have been covered or reduced through other sources such as insurance, workers’ compensation or adjusted hospital billing.
Under this measure, plaintiffs who win their damage claims still will receive the compensation that a judge or jury determines is just, but no longer will they reap windfalls by collecting far more than that.
Other measures raised the standard of proof in workers’ compensation discrimination cases, changed vetting standards for expert witnesses in jury trials, and required cities to conform to the state minimum wage.
In each case, advocates said these steps could make Missouri more welcoming of business investments and help to attract new jobs to the state.