Monday, March 14, 2011



Senator Brad Lager, the sponsor of S.B. 188, during the Senate debate, threw out the proposition that the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 was good enough for Dr. Martin Luther King, and therefore, it should be good enough for Missouri law. The Senator, who likely never marched or held any sign for civil rights based on his age alone, acted as if he and Dr. King were in the same room when Lyndon Baines Johnson signed Title VII into law.

Yet Dr. King certainly would never have dreamed the many travesties delivered by our federal courts would be part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Using Dr. King’s legacy in support of S.B. 188 is perverse and offensive. Why? The best way is to “show you” examples. While the list could go on and on, below are just three examples of how meritorious cases have fared in federal court – about the same way that African-Americans who wanted to be served at lunch counters in Alabama and Mississippi were treated in the 1960's – tossed and thrown out the proverbial door.

Jackson v. Flint Ink N. Am. Corp., 370 F.3d 791, 793-96 (8th Cir. 2004), modified on reh'g by 382 F.3d 869 (8th Cir. 2004). The 8 th Circuit affirmed the dismissal of this case and found that no racially hostile work environment existed, and where managers and coworkers referred to plaintiff as "that damn n____" and "n____"; used the phrases "damn black," "n____-rigging," and "f__ing n_____"; stated "[w]e don't listen to that damn black music around here, n___ shit, radio"; and there was evidence of graffiti of a burning cross with the letters "KKK" surrounding it.

Woodland v. Joseph T. Ryerson & Son, Inc., 302 F.3d 839, 843-44 (8th Cir. 2002). This case dismissed, finding that no racially hostile work environment existed where plaintiff had been told by a coworker on three occasions that another employee had used a racial epithet in referring to plaintiff; on two other occasions, plaintiff heard about racial epithets directed towards other African-American employees; there were graffiti drawings of "KKK," a swastika, and a hooded figure; and copies of a racially derogatory poem were "strewn about the plant."

LeGrand v. Area Resources for Community and Human Services, 394 F.3d 1098 (8th Cir. 2005). The following conduct was deemed not sufficiently severe or threatening to establish a hostile work environment based on sex under federal law and therefore, the case was dismissed: (1) Father Nutt asked LeGrand to watch pornographic movies and masturbate together to relieve stress; (2) Father Nutt suggested LeGrand would advance within the company if LeGrand watched the movies and performed sex acts on Father Nutt; (3) Father Nutt admittedly hugged and kissed LeGrand on the mouth; (4) Father Nutt admittedly brushed LeGrand's crotch with the back of Father Nutt's hand because he thought LeGrand was stimulated by the hug; (5) Father Nutt grabbed LeGrand's buttocks; and (6) Father Nutt gripped LeGrand's thigh under the conference table at a meeting.

Let’s just be honest about the purposes of S.B. 188 – steering Missouri discrimination cases into federal courts to maximize those to be thrown out without jury trials. In other words, protecting businesses and individuals who discriminate, and not protecting the victims of discrimination. Let’s not manipulate the legacy of Dr. King as S.B. 188's sponsor.

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