In 2014, a Missouri trucking company unlawfully damaged a former employee’s reputation after he got medical attention for an injury sustained on the job. In 2008, the driver informed his employer that he had sustained a back injury. It was serious enough that he had to be prescribed pain medication that would prevent him from operating a motor vehicle. When he was ready to return to work, he found he was having difficulty securing new employment. New Prime Inc., his former employer, had submitted a damaging and misleading report to his Drive-A-Check Report.
The report seemed to indicate that the truck driver had failed a drug screening. As a result, he was essentially blacklisted, being turned down for several employment positions.
The employee filed a claim with OSHA, claiming that he had been retaliated against by his former employer. As a result, he was awarded over $100,000 in damages, and the company was forced to expunge the negative report from his Drive-A-Check record.
SB 43 and Whistleblower Protections
SB 43 set back a number of workers’ civil and labor rights over the past year. One of the most troubling is that it rolls back protections for whistleblowers. According to Missouri Law, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for blowing the whistle on unsafe working conditions, illegal activities, or anything else that goes against the public interest.
The bill appears on the surface to severely limit a whistleblower’s ability to collect on a retaliation claim. Instead of being able to collect on punitive damages and pain and suffering, many fear the bill will limit damages in whistleblower cases to medical expenses and backpay.
Furthermore, whistleblowers may not be entitled to collect on future loss of wages that could result on reporting the criminal or negligent misconduct of their employers.
Opponents fear that these new regulations will discourage employees from reporting unsafe working conditions or criminal activity. In the end, this makes Missouri a less safe place to live and work.
Senate Bill 786 and Restoring Whistleblower Protections
A new proposal from December of 2017 seeks to redress the situation. Whistleblower protections were collateral damage in an attempt to address very high settlements in cases of workplace discrimination. As a result, the Missouri legislature may have inadvertently created a situation in which they are punishing individuals who report workplace criminal activity or unsafe work conditions. In fact, it would allow employers to “foster an atmosphere of intimidation” against those that are merely reporting wrongdoing.
As of the writing of this blog post, the Senate bill remains on the table.
Have You Been the Victim of Workplace Retaliation?
The employment environment under SB 43 may not favor workers, but you are still entitled to damages if your employer deals with you unfairly. That includes firing or demoting an employee in retaliation for filing a workers compensation claim, reporting unsafe working conditions, or reporting activity that goes against the public interest.
Even when cases like these do not get the settlements that they deserve, they raise awareness concerning the necessity of having a system of checks in place for employers that abuse the public’s good faith.
So if you have been the victim of workplace retaliation, contact HKM Employment Attorneys of Kansas City at 816.607.4691, and we will begin discussing your case right away.