One of the unintended consequences of Senate Bill 43, that saw workplace protections rolled back and made workplace discrimination lawsuits more difficult to win, was St. Louis’s suspension from FHAP (Fair Housing Assistance Program).
Last year, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development contacted Gov. Eric Greitens, who signed the bill into law, with concerns about the bill. They stated in a letter dated July 14, 2017, that the Missouri law was no longer “substantially equivalent” to Federal guidelines concerning workplace and housing discrimination. Amid many other employer-friendly statutes in the bill, SB 43 raised the standard of proof for workplace discrimination, forcing employees to prove that discrimination was a key motivating factor in workplace harassment or termination. This moved away from the “contributing factor” standard, in which employees only had to prove that discrimination was one factor among many.
The law was passed under the auspices of aligning Missouri Law more closely with federal standards.
Participation in the program requires that state laws be, more or less, equivalent to federal laws. A representative of HUD, Bryan Greene, told Missouri legislators that the law must be amended by March 1st in order to continue participating in the program. That money would help reimburse the state for numerous housing discrimination investigations and lawsuits.
Missouri Legislature Fails to Act
As of the first of March, the Republican-controlled legislature decided not to bother tweaking the law to align itself with federal statutes. This prompted the assistant secretary of Fair Housing, Anna Maria Farías, to contact the St. Louis Civil Rights Enforcement Agency, which prompted St. Louis’s mayor to speak out against relaxing anti-discrimination measures.
She also noted that St. Louis was likely not the only city to be impacted by HUD’s decision. The State of Missouri could end up losing out on nearly $600,000 in federal grant money.
Missouri Department of Labor Responds
The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations acknowledged that the federal money would be suspended because of the new legislation, but reassured Missourians that no one would lose any services as a result of this decision. The Missouri Human Rights Commission, which oversees both housing and employment discrimination, would continue to enforce Missouri law concerning fair standards.
Employment and Housing Discrimination Impacted by SB 43
While much of the press related to the new law was focused on the ways in which it limited remedies available to employees in lawsuits with their companies, SB 43 also effectively set limits on remedies available in cases of housing discrimination. In the July letter that sought to remedy the issue, HUD representative Bryan Greene noted that the bill removed provisions that protected those alleging discrimination from being retaliated against. The bill also forces victims to pursue administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit, thus making retaliation easier.
Have You Been the Victim of Workplace Discrimination?
If so, let HKM Employment Attorneys of Kansas City advocate on your behalf. The current law makes it more difficult for workers to pursue litigation, but not impossible. Involving a lawyer earlier in the process will make it easier to make your case in court. Call us at 816.607.4691, and we will discuss your case with you.