Monday, March 26, 2007
Emery law makes it harder to bring discrimination actions
One of the weakest laws in the state of Missouri is its Sunshine Law. While the law is purported to be strong on governmental bodies that wrongfully discuss public information in closed meetings, the law actually has no teeth.
If a school board, for instance, discusses something behind closed doors which should be discussed in open session, nothing can be done unless it is found that the board willfully broke the law, an almost impossible task.
Usually, when the law is broken, nothing happens to the lawbreaker.
If Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, has his way, the same thing will now happen to businessmen who are charged with any kind of discrimination. According to HB 1144, sponsored by Emery and co-sponsored by four other legislators, including Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, it no longer will be enough to show discrimination has taken place, now it will have to shown that the businesses' discrimination was motivated by "race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, age as it relates to employment, disability, or familial status as it relates to housing."
Now all business owners will have to do to get by with discriminatory activities is to say, "Well, we discriminated, but we certainly did not do it because of race (or sex, or age, or whatever reason may be the issue.) As the Sunshine Law has proven, it is almost impossible to prove intent.
Emery's bill changes every instance in the current law that says "any unfair treatment based on" to "which is motivated by." The difference is a big one; it allows any business owner that wants to discriminate for any reason to be able to do without fear of punishment.
I expect Emery and other bill proponents will say this is necessary to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits. That is the reason that has been given to support many a law designed to promote businesses at the expense of those who have been harmed by those businesses.
This law opens the door to all kinds of racism, age discrimination, and sexual discrimination by Missouri employers...but at least businesses will profit and that appears to be the primary goal of some of our state legislators.