Picture the point of a pin. Now cut that into a billion-billion pieces and you have something so small that it is pure energy. Inside is a vibrating "string," also of pure energy. It is this little entity, a billion-billionth the size of the pinpoint that holds the entire universe together.
Yes, this is a bad (and some say very bad) illustration of string theory, but I use it as an illustration — that one small word can make a big difference.
Case in point:
Of these, Rep. Stephen Webber’s, D-Columbia, HB 1500, "Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination," sets new definitions as to protected classes. This is a fair and necessary law for discrimination against one "class" is discrimination against all. Period.
HB 1500 has not been scheduled for a hearing as of this writing.
SB 453, introduced by Sen. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, is designed to limit the damages paid. The bill says actual damages "shall not exceed back pay and interest on back pay and $50,000 for employers with between 5 and 100 employees, $100,000 for employers with between 100 and 200 employees, $200,000 for employers with between 200 and 500 employees, or $300,000 for employers with more than 500 employees." SB 453 has advanced to committee.
It is state Sen. Brad Lager’s, R-*Savannah, SB 592 that is causing the biggest ruckus. The real change is to a single word. Current law states that, "a practice (of discrimination) is unlawful when the protected trait is a contributing factor in the decision to discriminate." The proposed law replaces the standard of "contributing" with "motivating."
Why is this a problem? It is much easier to prove "contributing" than "motivating," thus giving an employer a greater latitude for the dismissal of an employee for "cause" while hiding the true reason — that person is of a different religion, race, sexual orientation, etc.
My own past case in point:
I was fired from a state job many years ago. My work was always rated good to excellent, and my ability to complete the tasks at hand was never questioned. I was well liked by everyone: consumers, the industry I was regulating and my co-workers. Everyone except my boss and his boss.
I was denied two promotions for questionable reasons and had my religion (I sat as a board member of a local synagogue) questioned continuously. I came to heads with the administration during a winter holiday season when I hung a "Happy Chanukah" banner outside my office and in the lobby.
Although there were some one-dozen Christmas trees around the office, my two signs were deemed "religious" and taken down. A co-worker and I threatened action and eventually the banners were replaced with an "apology."
Six months later I was told to either voluntarily quit or be fired. It seems that I negotiated a $300,000-plus consumer refund at no additional cost to the state, avoiding a formal hearing. Everyone was happy. All of this was completed by telephone with follow-up letters, the standard operating procedure, for seven years. Now this was a major infraction.
It would have been easy to prove that religion was a "contributing factor" for the dismissal. I kept a diary of my daily activities, including the numerous conversations initiated by others concerning my not accepting Jesus as my savior and the banner incident.
However, if I were to try to prove that religious discrimination was "the motivating factor …" Well, that is near impossible, and discrimination concerning religion would have continued in the office.
Discrimination is discrimination, regardless of whether it is the primary, secondary, tertiary or any other reason for dismissal, refusals of promotion, a demotion or any other disciplinary action. By changing this single anti-worker standard, discrimination against minorities with any of the traits defined in the Missouri Human Rights Act will increase and become standard operating procedure.
I urge state Sen. Kurt Schaefer to take to the Senate floor and speak and vote against SB 592.
I urge you, my readers, to write Mr. Schaefer and demand the same. Email him, write him, or better yet, call his office and tell him discrimination against one is discrimination against all. Tell him to speak and vote against SB 592.
David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics.