Much has happened in the last year that directly affects Missouri’s African-Americans, women, the disabled, religious minorities and older people. Donald Trump was elected and then Missouri passed and Governor Greitens signed a draconian bill rolling back hard-fought civil rights.
Since the presidential election, there was an uptick in racist rants on social media and in the public. For some people, it seems to be okay to publicly show their vilest racist side, and they seem to be emboldened by the Trump presidency. I see the increased overt racism daily in the calls my office gets from prospective new clients. Up until recently, white people’s use of the “n” word was rare, the word had become anathema to civilized society. But now, I have several race discrimination cases where the ‘n’ world is hurled at African-Americans with abandon. My docket of race discrimination cases has markedly increased since the election, as well as harassment against gays and Lesbians.
But, it is not only the election of President Trump, an admitted sexual assailant, that coincides with increased harassment cases. This past legislative session, Governor Greitens signed SB 43 which rolls back protections for minorities and women in Missouri. Missouri is the first and only state to go backwards in civil rights. The new bill prohibits holding individuals accountable for racist, sexist, ageist actions. The NAACP has issued a travel warning for Missouri as a consequence of the bill’s passage. It’s a sad state in our nation where we stop protecting people from discrimination and harassment.
Before the change in the law, discrimination had to be a “contributing factor” for an adverse action to be compensable. The Missouri Legislature recently changed the contributing factor standard to requiring that unlawful discrimination be “the motivating factor,” which increases the burden on those harassed to prove liability. That, coupled with the elimination of individual liability, makes a race or sex or age discrimination case enormously more difficult to bring. The change in the law is akin to arguments about whether a well is poisoned. If a little bit of poison is mixed in a well full of water, it is undrinkable. The well need not be filled with a 100% solution of poison for it to be tainted. The law gives license to employers to fabricate non-discriminatory reasons for their actions. A portion of racist or sexist behavior is now acceptable, although is anathema to this nation’s historic goal of equality.
As you might imagine, discrimination laws with less enforcement capabilities give a green light to those who want to overtly discriminate based on race, sex, or age. The sexual harassment cases I have taken has also increased. While individuals who are discriminated against have far less protection, they are still flocking to seek counsel.
With the election of Trump and the passage of SB 43, my caseload is growing. I guess, even though it is against my personal financial interest, I would prefer to be out of business because racism, sexism and ageism become a thing of the past. It looks like I will have work to do for many, many years to come.