This is the fourth and final blog post in our series dealing with Missouri’s workers’ compensation law, and how it deals with employers who fire workers after they make a claim for a workplace injury. Earlier posts dealt with:
- How Missouri handled this issue, before 2014,
- The landmark workers’ compensation case that changed the law, and
- The new bill that allows employees to be fired, so long as their claim was not the “motivating factor” for their discharge.
Here, we’ll look at the impact of this new law, which is set to go into effect later this month.
Senate Bill 66 Overrules Missouri Supreme Court Case
Before 2014, employers could fire employees after they filed a workers’ compensation claim, so long as the claim was not the “exclusive cause” of the discharge. In 2014, though, the Missouri Supreme Court reinterpreted the law – something that it could do, because the law, M.R.S. 287.780, did not specify the required connection between the workers’ compensation claim and the discharge. That case, Templemire v. W & M Welding, Inc., expanded workers’ rights under the law, protecting them from being fired if the discharge was even just a “contributing factor” to the decision to let them go.
Politicians in the Missouri legislature, however, did not like this ruling. They proposed Senate Bill 66, which passed through both chambers and was signed by the governor on July 5, 2017. It’s set to go into effect on August 28, 2017.
New Law Rolls Back Workers’ Rights
Senate Bill 66 adds language to M.R.S. 287.780, setting a new standard for when workers are protected from being fired for making a workers’ compensation claim for a personal injury. Now, instead of it being a “contributing factor,” a workers’ compensation claim has to be the “motivating factor” behind the discharge to be protected. Perhaps worse, a “motivating factor” is defined as something that “actually played a role in the discharge or discrimination and had a determinative influence” on it.
This is a significant blow to workers’ rights because it lets employers easily fire their workers if they make a claim. While the movement from a “contributing factor” to a “motivating factor” seems minor, the difference is in the details: Now, workers need to show that their claim for compensation for a workplace injury was the reason why they were fired, instead of just a reason.
Additionally, the new language in M.R.S. 287.780 from Senate Bill 66 puts a lot of legal legwork on workers seeking protection from a wrongful discharge by making them show two crucial pieces of evidence – that their claim “actually played a role” in their firing, and that their claim “had a determinative influence” on their discharge. Even in the rare case where there is an email or a written order for someone to be fired because they made a workers’ compensation claim, putting the onus on workers to find it means they will have a much harder time protecting their rights.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
Senate Bill 66 is a huge setback to workers’ rights. When it goes into effect on August 28, we’ll likely see a spike in workers getting fired because of a past compensation claim, as employers waited for the new law before making a move.
If you’ve been hurt at the workplace, getting legal help from the workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph can make a huge difference. Contact us online or call our law office at (816) 875-9373.