“Innocent until proven guilty” is a fundamental part of the American justice system. Within criminal law, prosecutors accusing a person of a crime are responsible for proving that the offense actually happened.
Now, a new Missouri law is extending that basic premise to civil lawsuits, as well. The governor of that state has just signed a law that helps protect employers against frivolous discrimination cases.
“Tort reform is important. We need to prevent trial lawyers from killing good jobs,” stated Gov. Eric Greitens, a Republican governor and former Navy SEAL.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the new rule means that plaintiffs in discrimination cases must prove that their race, sex, or other status was the actual reason for mistreatment at work.
In other words, a person who is a minority must show that there was actual bias against that identity, rather than some other explanation for the employer’s behavior, such as poor work performance.
That might seem like common sense to most Americans, so it’s had to believe it actually came to this. But until the law goes into effect in August, that’s not how things work in Missouri.
“Missouri workers currently need only prove their protected status was a ‘contributing factor’ to prevail in court,” explained the Post-Dispatch.
“For example, if a Hispanic plaintiff is fired for being late for work while white workers show up late and aren’t fired, the Hispanic employee could ask a jury to compare the treatment and contend that race ‘contributed’ to the boss’s decision,” the newspaper continued.
Under the new law, that same employee would have to prove that race specifically motivated the mistreatment. For instance, plaintiffs would need to show a past history of racist comments from an employer in a discrimination case to establish a precedent.
Unsurprisingly, the rule change drew many opponents from the left, including the Missouri NAACP. However, Greitens said the law is a step in the right direction for Missouri.
“I’ve met with passionate advocates on both sides of [new law] SB 43. I respect all of them. I’ve listened to every side. I believe we need to bring Missouri’s standards in line with 38 other states and the federal government,” said Greitens.
The simple fact is that legal expenses take a major toll on many businesses. Those expenses often lead to fewer jobs and a weakened economy.
Missouri’s change will help protect employers against bogus cases and unwarranted lawsuits — and that will likely be a “win” for the state and its people.
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