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DAVID ROSMAN: Discrimination to one is discrimination to all

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:50 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 8, 2012

*CORRECTION: Sen. Brad Lager is from Savannah. An earlier version of this article misidentified his place of residence.

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:

The Missouri legislature has three discrimination bills facing its scrutiny: Senate bill 592, Senate bill 453 and House bill 1500.

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.


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Comments

Michael Williams February 8, 2012 | 11:16 a.m.

Hmmmm.

With your own words and example, it sounds to me like you were paying more attention to being a thorn in the side (or pain in the whatever) than doing your job.

Your diary was a good indicator. Manifesto writers seldom do well since such activities suggest an underlying (and deliberate) search for trouble. Such "victims" usually state they were "well liked by everyone", but generally that means....not so much. Mysanthropy does have gradations.

As for "denied two promotions for questionable reasons"....the term "questionable" is your undefined and unsupported term. Why use an undocumented statement to defend your mistreatment? It's empty to us, and it's not evidence of mistreatment without substantiation. Your say-so is insufficient. If you have something to say, then say it.

"Motivating" is better than "contributing". The latter allows a poor performer to deflect failures of their own onto someone else; i.e., it's not my fault. The former forces the employee to prove that poor performance did not outweigh any discrimination that may have occurred.

No sale.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 8, 2012 | 11:38 a.m.

I was fired once and almost fired a second time.

For the first, I was responsible for pouring bushel baskets of peaches onto a conveyor, taking care to remove all squishy (too mature) fruits before they entered the sorting area. The big boss thought I was doing it too slowly, but I wanted to do a good job so I searched diligently for the oldies. He showed me "how to do it" again, so I mimicked him thereafter. At the end of the shift, the entire assembly slowed to a syrupy halt, the result of too many squishies getting into the gears.

Out the door I must go.

The second was in a chemistry lab at a steel firm in KCMO. It was the night shift and several of the electric furnaces were inactive, so there wasn't much to do. Being a young, budding chemist, I decided it was a bright idea to investigate how to convert silver nitrate into pure metallic silver instead of cleaning up the lab. By gum, chemistry really works! I did it!

Turns out I had used up about 400 bucks of silver nitrate making one 10 ounce silver bar. That was a lot of dough back in the late '60s (ca. 3 weeks of my rock-bottom wages). I found out the boss was not happy at all (someone ratted me out), so I went to him and abjectly confessed. He told me the confession was a good thing since I was going to be fired at the end of the shift. I offered to return my glorious silver bar, but he said "Keep it as a reminder to (1) think first, and (2) do your job since that's why you are here."

Still have that bar.

Good lesson.

These were my very first and second jobs. I guess I shoulda complained about "discrimination" for being a stupid, young college student. Too bad I wasn't some type of protected minority back then so I could have deflected my responsibility onto others and collected some badly-needed gas money for dates. In today's environment, that just mighta worked.

(Report Comment)
David Rosman February 9, 2012 | 11:33 a.m.

Michael - All Administrative Hearing Officers were required to keep a daily dairy of activity by statute. This also included after work information if it concerned our areas of regulatory control.

My experience and education far exceeded the stated requirements yet was told they did not. The reason? I had the wrong license when I sold the products. It did not matter that I was teaching the product for the national professional association and for a community college, or had written two professional development textbooks on the same topic.

The person who was chosen, by the way, had the same license as I when that person was in the industry.

Answer your questions sir?

(Report Comment)
Jim Jones February 10, 2012 | 9:22 a.m.

The behavior of some people is not behavior that I would choose for myself, but if it is legal I don't believe that those people should be discriminated against, but I don't think that the chosen behavior makes them a "class" that should be given more privileges than those who don't engage in that behavior.

Riding a skate board in the street on Columbia is legal. Driving a car on the street is the norm. Cars are required to have headlights that work, brake lights and turn signals and good breaks and all kinds of things that they check before you are allowed to get a license to dive that car on the street. Skate boards require none of that.

How does this tie into this article? By allowing skateboards to avoid the things REQUIRED of a car, we are discriminating against those who drive cars. And, as you say "Discrimination to one is discrimination to all".

If we go much further in our attempts to avoid discriminating against this, that or the other thing, we are going to legislate ourselves into a society that is prohibited from doing ANYTHING! Beware of unintended consequences!

(Report Comment)

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