Missouri Bill, Sponsor, Governor Draw Ire From NAACP Travel Warning

images (4)By S. Christopher Emerson

A Missouri bill signed by Gov. Greitens has drawn negative attention after the NAACP issued a travel warning for visitors and residents of the state.

State Sen. Gary Romine’s SB 43 bill, signed into law by the governor on June 30, makes it harder for an employee to sue a business for racial discrimination. Set to take effect on August 28, the “Jim Crow” bill as it’s referred to in an NAACP press release, comes as Romine owns a business that is being sued for racial discrimination.

Missouri NAACP chapter president  and civil rights attorney Rod Chapel wants the law to be repealed, and also criticizes how it could even pass, given the apparent conflict of interest with its sponsor facing a discrimination lawsuit.

“I think there should be a full investigation,” Chapel said Wednesday, according to NBC news. “And if it is an issue where he is helping himself in passing this legislation … I think it’s important for the state senate or the government as a whole to make a determination for whether this type of action is OK.”

Romine explains that he would not benefit from the activation of the bill because “we deliberately did not make the bill retroactive, and the bill didn’t include an emergency clause.”

The senator maintains that workplace discrimination is wrong and should be punished, but that employers are unfairly “punished and held liable even if discrimination didn’t cause the adverse employment action,” according to nbcnews.com.

The NAACP travel advisory warns of the “looming danger” of spending any time in the state, in the wake of the passage of the bill which it suggests “legalizes individual discrimination and harassment in Missouri and would prevent individuals from protecting themselves from discrimination harassment, and retaliation in Missouri.”

Though this advisory is the first of its kind, the June 2017 warning to African Americans in Missouri recalls the “Negro Motorist Green Book,” commonly called “The Green Book,” published by Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1966. “The Green Book” was an annual guidebook for Black road trippers in Jim Crow Era America, directing motorists to services and accommodations that were considered friendly. In the midst of legal segregation, the book’s travel advice helped Blacks avoid hostile areas such as “sundown towns” particularly in rural areas and the South.

SB 43 changes current requirements of civil rights prosecutions under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) from “contributing factor” to “because of, but for causation.” Romine’s editorial explains “Because of, but for causation” essentially means that an adverse decision or action would not have been made but for the employee’s status as a protected person. So the bill makes it more difficult to sue in that the plaintiff must prove that their protected status was THE reason they were treated unfairly. Several entities are excluded from workplace prosecution, according to SB 43, including the federal employers, the US government, corporations and associations owned by religious or sectarian organizations, private membership clubs, and other employees. Under the new law, none those entities can be sued for discrimination.

The NAACP advisory lists several cases which have gained national attention for heightening racial and social justice tensions in the state. It warns travelers that “race, gender and color based crimes have a long history in Missouri.”

The press release states that the Missouri State Conference NAACP suggests African Americans “warn families, associates and visitors of safety concerns… notify trade union workers, social and civic organizations of the risks of unnecessary (police) searches and seizures (while travelling)… and file and seek help on any discrimination, harassment, retaliation and whistle blowing ASAP before your legal rights are lost if Senate Bill 43 is not vetoed by Governor Greitens.”

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