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September 2017 Update

Posted By Governmental Affairs Committee, Friday, September 1, 2017

On August 17, Elizabeth Wente and Wade Early from Spencer Fane presented our Fall Governmental Affairs update at our regular meeting.  Wade went into depth regarding recent changes in Missouri law, while Elizabeth presented what is happening on the Federal level.  Highlights of each are below. 


Missouri News

Missouri Human Rights Act

Governor Greiten signed the bill into law on June 30, 2017, and it took effect on August 28, 2017. The changes include:


  1. Causation standard -  has been raised from “contributing factor” to “motivating factor”.  Definition – “the employee’s protected classification actually played a role in the adverse action or decision and had a determinate influence on the adverse decision or action.”   This brings the standard closer to that used in federal anti-discrimination laws.
  2. Punitive damages –  a. expressly excludes attorneys’ fees, and,  b. cannot exceed (i) actual back pay and interest, plus (ii) a fixed amount based on the defendant’s number of employees.
  3. Individual liability – plaintiffs can no longer sue individual supervisors for violation of the MHRA.
  4. Time limitation – 180 days to file a charge.  The new rule makes timeliness a jurisdictional prerequisite to bringing a lawsuit.
  5. Wrongful discharge – Missouri now has a Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) which should preempt common law wrongful discharge claims.  The Act is intended to prevent courts from creating further exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine. 

Workers’ Compensation

Senate Bill 66 modified eleven existing sections of the Missouri Workers’ Compensation law.  Governor Greitens signed the bill on July 5, 2017, and it took effect on August 28, 2017.

  1. Section 287.780 – Increased the standard from “contributing factor” to “motivating factor”.
  2. Section 287.390 – Compromise settlement provision.  After a “claimant” has reached MMI, and a settlement offer has been made based upon the employer’s physician’s disability rating, the claimant shall have a period of 12 months to acquire a rating of their own.  Otherwise, any settlement shall be based upon the initial rating, absent “extenuating circumstances.” 

Minimum Wage

The new law forbids any political subdivision from establishing a minimum wage.  Municipalities cannot increase the minimum wage above the state minimum

Unemployment Benefits

Starting in January, Missouri’s current 20 weeks of unemployment benefits would drop to as few as 13 weeks (among the shortest in the nation).  The length of benefits is tied to the state unemployment rate. 

Right to Work

Signed by Governor on February 6, 2017 and was set to become effective on August 28, 2017.  However, this is now on hold as unions turned in three times the amount of signatures needed to stop the law. The state will now begin to verify the signatures to ensure there is enough to put the referendum on the November ballot.

  1. Has a “grandfather clause” meaning it does not affect existing union contracts.  Until the contract expires, an employee is required to pay union dues.
  2. The union is also seeking the amend Article 1, Section 29 of the Missouri Constitution to prevent the enactment of right-to-work legislation. 

Federal News

Trump Policy

While campaigning, Trump stated that the following are items he would look into or change:

Immigration (spoke about the wall between Mexico and the US at his rally in Arizona on August 22, 2017), Tax Reform (spoke on this topic during his visit to our fair city on August 30, 2017) , Paid Maternity Leave (driven by his daughter), and Transgender Rights and Discrimination. 

Department Of Labor

What is the status of the FLSA White Collar Exemptions? – On July 25, 2017, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division announced its intent to publish a Request for information (RFI) seeking input from the public before issuing revised proposed overtime exemption regulations to address, most significantly, the minimum salary level required for exempt status.  The DOL is asking for comments on:

  • The appropriate measure for the inflation factor
  • Using market or region specific thresholds
  • Using different thresholds for different exemptions
  • Whether the short and long test should be reinstated or updated
  • The importance of salary v. duties
  • Analysis regarding the potential impact of the proposed 2016 final rule
  • Analysis regarding the automatic update

Comments must be submitted by September 25, 2017

Supreme Court

Is sexual orientation protected under Title VII?   - This is a potential issue for our supreme court.  Our federal courts disagree and our government disagrees as well.  

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