Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Plea to Missouri Legislators - Don't Backtrack on Civil Rights

  I was a child of the late sixties and early seventies and that era shaped who I am today.  My family fled Nazi Germany, but not all of my German and Polish-Jewish relatives got out in time.  Many perished in concentration camps.  During my high school and college years, the American Civil Rights Movement began.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed when I was 11 and even then, I was proud.

Growing up in Missouri, I knew we had a checkered past in civil rights. Plessy v. Ferguson, started as a case about Missouri.  The University of Missouri law school did not admit African-Americans.  When I was young, I heard lots of people use the "N" word.  My mother remembers separate drinking fountains.  I remember job listings in newspapers under the headings "Male" and "Female."

Missouri, since its early missteps, has been on the forefront of civil rights, passing civil rights laws even before the federal government had.  I have always been proud of my state.  But now the rights of individuals are being threatened.  Some Missouri legislators are trying to roll back the clock to a time when minorities, the disabled and women were second class citizens.  They are trying to amend Missouri employment laws to make it virtually impossible for a person who has suffered discrimination or retaliation to stand up against corporations.

We have come a long way from the early days when discrimination was officially condoned and sanctioned, but there is still much work to be done.  Sexual harassment is not nearly as common as it was when I started practicing law.   But, I still have cases where women were groped and fondled in the workplace.  I still have cases where employees were called the "N" word.  I still have many cases where employees were terminated for complaining about discrimination or about a company violating safety laws.

My clients are not litigious, not in light of what they go through to protect themselves and others.  My clients are heroic.  I suspect for everyone one client with the fortitude to come forth, there are multitudes too timid and scared to rock the boat.  Without the courage of these brave souls who stand up in the face of injustice where might America be?  And we still have a long way to go.  Women are paid 76cents for every $1.00 a man makes.  Minorities are not promoted in some companies, people are harassed because of their sex or their race.  When I go to trial and my client prevails, we feel good not just because we have won the case, but because my client knows he or she has made a difference.  Because of people such as my clients, this country, this state is a better, fairer place.  A child can now dream of becoming president, no matter what race or gender he or she is.

Some Missouri legislators want to roll back the clock and take away our citizens' civil rights.  They want to require claimants to have to prove a heightened burden of proof, higher than in any other type of case, that discrimination or retaliation has occurred, given license to employers to make up bogus reasons and get by with it.  Some Missouri legislators want to protect the sexual harassers and individuals engaged in the harassing behavior.  Some Missouri legislators want to deter whistle-blowers from coming forward by requiring them to, in essence, become a lawyer to determine the legal ramifications of what they complain about before they come forward to report fraud, malfeasance or worse. These are scare tactics to deprive Missouri citizens of their civil rights and to punish them for rocking the boat when the boat desperately needs to be rocked.

If you are reading this, please contact your state representative and senator to vote against this legislation.  The Senate bill is bill 852.  Passage of this bill threatens the very nature of our democratic process and the civil rights our country so treasures.  Please, take a stand.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Coming Soon

I have things I would like to write about on my blog, but currently lack the time to write.  I am getting ready for trial.  Look for future blogs on the problem with Mo Senate Bill 852 attempting to overhaul Missouri employment law.  Also look for a blog on empathy, and its importance for trial lawyers and for people in general.