Threatened: Missouri Values for Work Place Safety and Accountability
By: Paul A. Bullman
Missouri has always been my home. I want Missouri to be safe. To keep Missouri safe, I want everyone in Missouri to be held personally and fully accountable for his or her own conduct no matter who they are and where they are - including work. Do you agree?
Most of us expect to be safe at work. Most of us expect personal and full accountability for everybody - including ourselves, our co-workers and our employer. Now, this doesn't always happen of course, but this is what we expect.
It's really an unwritten contract - we agree to work hard and to treat our co-workers and our employer with respect and decency and we expect our co-workers and our employer to treat us with that same respect and decency. This contract keeps us all safe and secure at work. This contract ensures that work does not interfere with the best things in life like Church and family.
While most of us fulfill our duties under this safety contract, some choose to violate the safety rules and they must be held fully accountable. Imagine a Missouri where you, your co-workers and your employer aren't held fully accountable. Some rule breakers are trying to change Missouri's work place rules so they can never be personally and fully accountable ever again.
Almost 50 years ago, the federal government created a weak minimal standard for work place respect and decency - the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 sets a bare minimum standard for all states. It's not meant, and was never meant, to be the highest standard for each state - including Missouri. This is because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 reflects the minimum values accepted by most in our entire country. I like to think that Missourians hold stronger values than most.
For nearly 50 years in Missouri, you've been protected by a law stronger than that weak minimal standard created by the federal government. Law folks call this the Missouri Human Rights Act. Our strong Missouri values reflected in the Missouri Human Rights Act - including personal and full accountability - are now under attack by those who break our Missouri values. If we don't immediately act, our strong Missouri values securing work place safety, respect and decency reflected in the law will be gutted. Instead, the rule breakers want to replace our strong Missouri values with the weak minimal federal standard.
Similar to the weak minimum standard set forth in federal law, Missouri state law requires that co-workers and employers must treat you with respect and decency regardless of your religion, age, disability, sex, race, ancestry and national origin.
Unlike the weak minimum federal standard, Missouri has developed law over 50 years which ensures Missouri values are honored through personal and full accountability. You and your family have been protected by this, and I bet you didn't even know it! Neither personal accountability nor full accountability are permitted under the weak minimum federal law. These are just two reasons why the federal law is truly minimum.
For instance, now in Missouri, a supervisor who sexually harasses an employee, such as teenage girl, may be held personally and fully accountable by the victim. This means a would be sexual harasser has a major disincentive - personal and full accountability. This also means that if this sexual predator violates the law, he will be held personally and fully accountable to the point where he may never be in a position to sexually harass a teenage girl ever again. Under current Missouri law, we are safe. But, this supervisor can never be held accountable at any level under weak federal law (and the law proposed for Missouri) because this supervisor's actions are completely excused no matter how outrageous.
Also, now in Missouri, if an employer from a coast state like California tries to force a Missouri Christian to live by their so-called Californian "religious" values, then a local judge and jury from the Missouri county where that Christian works may decide what full consequences that Californian employer should face for violating our Christian Missouri values. Again, this Californian employer has a major disincentive to violate Missouri values: full accountability. Under current Missouri law, our Christian Missouri values are safe. But again, under federal law (and the law proposed for Missouri), the Californian employer can never be held fully accountable because judges and juries are limited by 20 year old weak federal rules restricting accountability no matter how outrageous the conduct may have been. This allows that Californian employer to put a price tag on each Missouri Christian who they employ. Under weak federal law (and the law proposed for Missouri), our Christian Missouri values aren't safe.
Under current law, we're safe because of personal and full accountability. But if we don't act now, these Missouri values are about to be eliminated from our law. In other words, that work place sexual predator won't be personally accountable and that Californian employer won't be held fully accountable regardless of how outrageous its conduct may have been.
And these are just two examples based on real life cases. Under federal law (and the law proposed for Missouri), those who violate our Missouri values involving age, disability, race, ancestry and national origin will also be excused from personal and full accountability.
Predictably, co-workers and employers who have violated our Missouri values have concluded that Missouri values are too strong for them. Instead, of living up to our strong Missouri values, those rule breakers have decided that the weak federal minimums should replace our Missouri law based on our strong Missouri values.
How did they do this? While you and I were working hard supporting our families, the rule breakers played the political game and targeted the right politicians in Jefferson City. Obviously our work place safety isn't their concern. Instead, these rule breakers seek license to threaten our work place safety which they will receive through gutted Missouri law.
Of course the rule breakers will cleverly tell you that Missouri workers like you will still have redress against your employer so you aren't really losing much of anything. This is just political spin in an attempt to mask the threat, confuse you and keep the truth from you. The truth is that personal and full accountability will be eliminated and Missouri work places will be instantly less safe. If Senate Bill 188 becomes law, the employer who breaks the rules and harms its employees will be at an even greater advantage than before. If Senate Bill 188 becomes law, the individual will have license to do as he pleases because he will never be personally accountable for his actions. Don't take my word for it, I encourage you to read Missouri Senate Bill 188 for yourself. I also encourage you to see real life examples of the lack of personal and full accountability which have occurred for decades under federal law (the same law proposed for Missouri).
You may say that you have no need for laws that reflect strong Missouri values because your co-workers and employer already live up to our safety "contracts" under Missouri values.
But, I'd ask that you consider 3 things: (1) Should we really lower our strong Missouri values to protect those rule breakers who violate our Missouri values and threaten our safety? (2) Are you, your family and friends safer at work if we adopt weak federal work place standards?, and (3) Can you guarantee with 100% confidence that all of your future co-workers, supervisors and employers will abide by strong Missouri values if the law says they don't have to?
If you answered no to any of these questions, then you recognize the importance of not letting those who disrespect our strong Missouri values gut our laws by inserting the weak federal values. Let's not gut our standards because certain people think our Missouri values are too strong for them. Let's honor our safety contracts with each other and ensure every Missourian and every business in Missouri is required to do the same.
Missouri laws should reflect strong Missouri values. Each Missourian and each business employing Missouri workers must honor the safety contract to treat each Missouri worker with the level of respect and decency we have come to demand in Missouri. Missouri shouldn't rely on some weak federal standard to protect the work place safety, accountability and rule of law here in Missouri. That's weak federal values, not strong Missouri values.
If you want to keep Missouri safe by honoring our strong Missouri values, you need to immediately contact your Missouri senator and representative. We don't have much time because those who don't abide by our Missouri values have quickly moved Senate Bill 188 through the legislation process. As said, they did this quickly through political games while we were hard at work supporting our families. We cannot let them get away with excusing themselves from personal and full accountability.
Please call your Missouri senator and representative and tell them you are for strong Missouri values like personal and full accountability and against the weak minimum federal standard proposed for us in Missouri Senate Bill 188.
Your expectation for a safe, respectful and decent work place is at stake. If you wait, it will be too late for you and your family. Do we want rule breakers defining our Missouri values?