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.

Lynne Jaben Bratcher

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