Almost every corporation large enough to publish an employee handbook puts this in writing: “This corporation has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind.” Zero tolerance. That means none. Every human resource official will tell you that discrimination of any kind at any level should not be allowed. And that’s the way it should be, right?Not according to legislators in Missouri, who are actively trying to roll back civil rights laws in our State to allow for some level of discrimination.How’s that, you say? Are they putting that in a statute?Yes, they are – by redefining discrimination and making it much harder for employees to prove discrimination. Currently, an employee who is fired, for example, for needing Sunday off to attend church services, is required to prove to a jury that his religion was a “contributing factor” to the termination decision. If that person’s faith and attendance requirements are any part of the decision –even if the boss can come up with other reasons – a jury can find in that person’s favor. In other words, Missouri law today has zero tolerance for discrimination.That will change if current proposed legislation is passed into law and signed by the Governor. Members of both the Missouri House and Senate have introduced bills that make the standard higher than “contributing factor.” For example, one bill (SB 43 introduced by Senator Romine) changes the burden so that the decision to terminate was “because of” the person’s religion. The religion has to be a “motivating” factor.Let’s go back to my example, if this bill passes. Suppose a practicing Christian tells his employer that he has to honor the Sabbath and refrain from work on Sunday, or just be allowed to attend church services on Sunday. His boss can fire him and claim some other reason was the “motivating factor.” The boss can even admit that the religious beliefs played a part in the decision to fire him so long as the boss claims some other reason was involved.That’s not zero tolerance. That says, “We in Missouri are willing to tolerate a little bit of discrimination.”Why would Senator Romine propose such a bill? The answer may be his own experience. He owns a company called Show Me Rent to Own. As of today, there is a lawsuit pending in Scott County against Show Me Rent to Own. In that lawsuit, it is alleged that a supervisor for Show Me Rent to Own told an employee to “quit acting like a n*****” and that “black people are the worst to rent to.” When the employee reported this conduct to HR, he was told that Senator Romine would be informed, but there was nothing she could do about it. Months later he was fired. The reason? He used profanity at work – something the non-minority employees did routinely without discipline.Understand, these are allegations in a lawsuit, and a jury has not yet heard the case. But under today’s law, if the jury believed the employee’s race contributed to his firing, he could win. Zero tolerance. But if Senator Romine’s bill becomes law, he can tell the jury that profanity at work was the “motivating factor.” In other words, it’s okay to use horribly racist language. We’ll tolerate that. But we draw the line at profanity.Call your Representative and Senator. Tell your Representative you oppose HB550, 552 and 676, and tell your Senator you oppose SB 43.

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