Monday, April 24, 2017

SB43 - A Bad Missouri Bill Promoting Discrimination

The Missouri Legislature is considering making it much harder to bring discrimination and whistleblower cases. The bill's sponsor, Senator Romines, has a business that is being sued because his management committed vile racist conduct against an employee.

Missouri has been a leader among states in fighting racism, sexual harassment, and other forms of discrimination. Missouri will be the first state, if this bill is passed, to reverse progress in civil rights.

Please call or write your representative in Jefferson City and implore him or her to vote against SB 43. We need to move forward, not backward.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

White Privilege

I am white.  Until recently, I never gave serious thought about white privilege. Sometimes I speed on the highway, past a cop, and I do not get pulled over.  I have gotten many warnings, instead of tickets.

In school, I always got the benefit of the doubt, that I was capable of doing the work. I never had much trouble with job interviews. In court, I am treated with respect,by lawyers, judges, and litigants.

We were poor when I was growing up, but my sister and I always felt that we could succeed. She is a mathematical genius.  We were put in the accelerated classes for the smart kids. We knew we were going to college, even though we needed scholarships and financial aid to get through.

White men had it even easier than we did. They looked for part-time jobs in the "men's" section of the want-ads and got paid more. They were, and generally still are, the bosses. We worked hard at our typing jobs working through college and did okay.

I know of Black executives and politicians who routinely are subject to traffic stops. Most bosses are white men, not people of color. We don't hear the "n" word like I heard it as a kid, but implicit bias is a real thing. The people with the most power are still predominantly white and predominantly men.

I do not know when or if society will change. Change terrifies those with power. People don't willingly give up power, especially when they refuse to acknowledge that they hold the power. Just look at Fox News. A bastion of white, male privilege.  Roger Ailes was bought out for $40,000,000. Let's see what happens to Bill O'Reilly.  I bet neither Ailes nor O'Reilly believes in white privilege, while they continue to profit from despicable behavior.

Monday, April 3, 2017

My Letter to Governor Greitens. (PLEASE OPPOSE SB43)

I sent the following letter to Governor Greitens in early March, 2017:

Dear Governor Greitens:

I am writing this letter to you about the Missouri Human Rights Act.  However, there is so much more I would like to tell you.  As you were running for Governor, I did some research about you and I feel I can relate to you.  I believe our upbringings were similar.  I am Jewish and my mother, grandparents and great-grandmother fled Nazi 
Germany in 1938, days before Kristallnacht, to live in the United States.  Unfortunately, many of my relatives were denied immigration status to the U.S. and perished in Auschwitz.  Being lucky enough to survive religious persecution, I became a civil rights lawyer, mainly representing victims of discrimination in employment.  I read that you were taught by Holocaust survivors and I imagine you understand my motivation.

I am a plaintiffs' lawyer and I know that is not popular with many people.  While I believe that the little guy deserves competent representation in lawsuits, quite frankly, I believe discrimination cases are different than other types of lawsuits.  Our country is special because we protect those who are disadvantaged by others because of their religion, race, sex, age and disability.  I have always been proud to be a Missourian, because Missouri protects the rights of minorities.  Without civil rights protections, I probably could not have gone to law school or gotten the education I did.  I am proud that we have a Jewish governor, something I never thought would happen in Missouri.

I have been to the National Archives and seen the original bill proposed for  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In 1964, when Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was passed, Southern senators did not want a bill that gave equal rights in employment to African-Americans, so they wrote in another category thinking that it would kill the bill.  They added "sex" as a protected class, and the bill passed anyway.  That is how women came to be protected in employment discrimination and that was the genesis of anti-sexual harassment decisions.

If the limitations on civil rights proposed in SB 43 and similar statutes in the House are passed, civil rights of minorities are in jeopardy.  Unfortunately, we have not eradicated unlawful discrimination and the discrimination laws do make a difference.  When I started trying sexual harassment cases in 1994, the harassment was horrendous.  Bosses were sexually assaulting female employees in the cases I tried.  After more than twenty  years, sexual harassment is far less common and I attribute the societal awareness to women with the courage to come forward and complain.  The changes to the law proposed by the legislature will discourage victims from coming forward.  I respectfully request that you veto any bill restricting civil rights.  Missouri has always been progressive, passing a discrimination law in 1959, five years before the federal government passed Title VII.  I have always been proud of our state's commitment to equality and fairness.  Please make sure that Missouri's commitment to civil rights is not compromised.

Sincerely,
Lynne Jaben Bratcher
BRATCHER GOCKEL LAW, L.C.