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Nixon vetoes discrimination, workers' compensation bills

Friday, March 16, 2012 | 1:57 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon, for the second consecutive year, vetoed legislation Friday that would have changed rules for lawsuits alleging workplace discrimination.

The Democratic governor also blocked changes to the workers' compensation system that supporters had hoped would keep more cases out of court.

The governor's office announced the vetoes in a news release Friday. The Republican-led legislature passed both bills last week before adjourning for their annual midterm spring break.

Nixon said the most recent workplace discrimination legislation contains the same "fundamental flaws" as the measure he rejected last year during a rally at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis. The governor said existing protections should remain to people with disabilities, women, older workers and minorities against discrimination.

This year's legislation "is nearly identical to the bill I vetoed last year because it would undermine the Missouri Human Rights Act and decades of progress on civil rights," the governor said.

Under the workplace discrimination legislation, workers who brought lawsuits would need to prove discrimination was a "motivating factor" and not simply a contributing factor in the employer's actions. It also would have linked possible punitive damages to the number of employees at a business with a cap of $300,000. Political subdivisions, such as city governments, could not have been forced to pay punitive damages.

Supporters of the legislation said the changes are designed to better align state discrimination rules with federal law.

The workers' compensation legislation would have included occupational diseases under Missouri's workers' compensation system instead of allowing lawsuits over those claims. It also would have barred employees who get hurt on the job from suing a co-worker unless the injury was "purposefully and dangerously" caused.

The legislature could override Nixon's veto and enact the legislation anyway with a two-thirds vote in each chamber. The Republicans control more than two-thirds of the Senate but fall slightly short of that mark in the House.


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