According to an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Missouri House passed two pieces of important legislation this week specifically aimed to overcome a veto by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon earlier this year pertaining to Missouri work comp.
As they have passed the House, both bills now head over to the Senate which previously approved similar measures earlier in this year's legislative session. The House voted 86-66 for a bill that could reduce protections for employees who report wrongdoing in the workplace. The legislation limits "whistleblower" status to employees who report or refuse to carry out illegal acts. The bill goes further to gut existing protections by limiting who is allowed to receive whistleblower reports as well as capping the amount of punitive damages a whistleblower can recover if an employer retaliates.
In Missouri there is no comprehensive whistleblower statue. Instead, law has been made by court cases and whether a person can sue has been decided by judges on the basis of precedent. The sponsor of the recent bill, Rep. Kevin Elmer said it was designed to clarify rules for business owners by putting something on the books officially. Given that the bill is the result of legislative action, the statute would supersede the courts' earlier decisions.
Democrats in the legislature have spoken at length against the bill, arguing that it doesn't give workers enough protection to allow them to report serious problems. The Democrats also complained about the bill's exemptions for state and local government entities, including Missouri's public colleges and universities.
On the workers' compensation front, the House also backed a bill that would bar employees from suing co-workers for on-the-job injuries. This was also passed earlier in the year but vetoed by Nixon. Democrats also spoke against this bill, saying that the law would prevent employees from suing co-workers even for intentionally caused injuries.
The Majority Leader, Tim Jones, says that this is an additional vehicle that will be used to help overhaul Missouri's Second Injury Fund, an account which pays benefits to people with disabilities who sustain additional injuries on the job.
A spokesman for the governor said Nixon is negotiating with lawmakers about a workers' compensation measure, but he declined to comment further.
As Saint Louis workers' compensation attorneys we routinely see the devastating aftermath of accidents at the workplace and worry about protections for employees being diminished. If you've been the victim of such an accident and need help navigating confusing legal waters, contact our skilled Missouri injury lawyers today.
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