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Opinion: Keep pace with shakeups in state, federal employment laws

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New Missouri laws and changes in existing state employment laws are now in effect, while federal employment-related forms have been modified or eliminated. I’ll quickly cover seven changes:

1. Missouri Human Rights Act. Gov. Eric Greitens signed into law Missouri Senate Bill 43, effective Aug. 28, to bring state law in closer alignment with 38 other states and federal law. First, an employee protected class status as the “contributing factor” in alleged discrimination, a low bar for causation, is raised to a “motivating factor.” The term motivating factor is defined as the protected class status actually playing a role in the adverse action against the laborer. Second, a plaintiff may no longer sue individual supervisors for violations of the MHRA. Third, an actual cap has been placed on punitive damages that excludes attorney fees, may not exceed back pay and interest, and will be a fixed amount based on the defendant’s number of workers. Fourth, an associate has 180 days to file a claim or he may not bring a lawsuit.

2. Missouri Whistleblower Protection Act. SB 43 also created the WPA to replace common-law wrongful discharge causes of action and to stop courts from establishing additional exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine. The WPA protects a staff member who refuses to perform an employer’s unlawful directive, reports a company’s illegal action to the appropriate authorities, or reports a violation of public policy in the constitution or a statute to the business.

3. Missouri Workers’ Compensation Law. Greitens signed SB 66 into law, also effective Aug. 28, which modified 11 existing sections. Several changes were notable: First, as with the MHRA, a workers’ compensation claim must be a “motivating factor” in alleged discrimination instead of just a “contributing factor.” Second, team members may no longer file civil lawsuits for most job-related illnesses. Third, a new type of claim is available for occupational diseases due to toxic exposure. Fourth, the Second Injury Fund will no longer compensate employees when a pre-existing partial disability combines with a work injury to produce an increased overall disability.

4. Missouri Unemployment Insurance Benefits
. Under Missouri House Bill 288, beginning in January 2018, unemployment benefits will be on a sliding scale and drop to as few as 13 weeks depending upon the state unemployment rate. The maximum number of weeks will increase if the unemployment rate exceeds 6 percent and will top at the current benefit of 20 weeks, if the unemployment rate exceeds 9 percent.

5. Missouri Right to Work. SB 19 was to be effective Aug. 28, enabling laborers at union jobsites to opt out of paying union membership dues. However, unions filed Referendum Petition 2018-R002 for placement on the Nov. 6, 2018, general election ballot asking whether or not to ratify the right-to-work statute. The Missouri secretary of state currently is determining if the referendum petition complies with the state Constitution and Chapter 116 of the Missouri Revised Statutes.

6. Form I-9. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a revised I-9 form that must be utilized beginning Sept. 18. The form requires an enterprise to ascertain an associate’s identity and authorization to work in the United States. The only substantive modification is adding a consular report of birth for a U.S. citizen who was born abroad as an acceptable document in List C.

7. EEO-1 Report. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s implementation of the revised EEO-1 report is postponed indefinitely. The revised report would have instructed covered federal contractors and private-sector employers with 100 or more staff members to provide data on employee compensation and hours worked, in addition to the mandatory demographic information on the prior EEO-1 Report. The new requirements would have applied to EEO-1 reports for 2017 due by March 31, 2018.

Lynne Haggerman, M.S., is president/owner of Lynne Haggerman & Associates LLC, a Springfield firm specializing in management training, retained search, outplacement and human resource consulting. She can be reached at lynne@lynnehaggerman.com.

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