JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Most new laws passed by Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature this year take effect Monday, including a measure that will raise the standard for suing for workplace or housing discrimination.
The change has been praised by Republican Gov. Eric Greitens and business groups, who argue there are too many lawsuits in the state.
But the law has spurred backlash, particularly from the Missouri NAACP, which argues that the law will make it harder to hold individuals accountable for discrimination based on race, gender and age, among other things. Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel said the organization might sue the state over the law.
Here’s a breakdown of that law and others that take effect Monday:
A new law will require people suing for housing or employment discrimination to prove that their race, gender, age or ability was “the motivating factor” in the discrimination. Under current law, employees and tenants must only prove that their protected class contributed to an employer’s decision to fire, discipline or refuse to hire them or a landlord’s refusal to rent.
The measure also sets caps for the amount of damages an employer or landlord may be ordered to pay based on the size of the company and prohibits people from suing some individuals, such as a supervisor, for discrimination. The law also applies to alleged discrimination in public accommodations, which covers places such as schools, restaurants and sports stadiums.
Greitens and influential state business groups such as the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry say it’s now too easy to sue businesses for discrimination and that the change will bring Missouri in line with standards they say are used in 38 other states and by the federal government.
The Missouri NAACP cited the law and past racial conflicts in the state in a travel advisory warning would-be visitors of “looming danger.” The organization is helping coordinate a New Orleans-style jazz funeral on Sunday outside the governor’s mansion in protest of the new law, as well as to mourn violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
Starting Monday, Missourians will be allowed to drive farm vehicles and other agricultural equipment on state highways between sunset and sunrise, as long as machinery has proper lights.
Legislation that takes effect Monday will give people immunity for carrying small amounts of drugs if they seek medical help for themselves or someone else who is overdosing. Immunity also applies to violations of probation, parole or a restraining order and underage drinking.
Restaurants, summer camps and sports arenas will be able to keep emergency allergy treatment on hand. Under a new law, businesses and organizations where there are allergens such as bees or certain foods could get prescriptions for epinephrine.
Project Labor Agreements
Local governments starting Monday will be banned from mandating union working conditions for construction projects. Previously, Missouri counties, cities and other local governments could issue bid requirements for public construction that mandated union working conditions for contractors if the projects were less than half funded by the state. The new law would ban that completely. Local governments face losing state funding and tax credits for two years if they violate the law.