KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A woman who had Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ backing when she sued a state agency for employment discrimination is asking the Republican to veto a GOP-backed bill that would make such lawsuits more difficult.
Greitens took a break from the campaign trail last summer to testify on behalf of Pat Rowe Kerr and congratulated the former Missouri Veterans Commission employee after she won a nearly $3 million verdict, The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/2rmKbKp ) reports. Her lawsuit alleged she was dismissed in 2009 at the age of 56 because Veterans Commission Director Larry Kay had a problem with older, successful women. Kay and the commission blamed her dismissal on budget cuts. The state is appealing.
Greitens had worked with Kerr during his time running a charity he founded, The Mission Continues, and she agreed to serve on Greitens’ campaign leadership team. She said Greitens’ testimony “helped me achieve justice” and is hopeful that he will help ensure justice isn’t denied for others.
At issue is a bill that would increase the standard workers who claim discrimination in wrongful-termination lawsuits must prove. Among the other provisions in the bill are changes to the state’s whistleblower laws — including removing protections for state employees — and limits to punitive damages for victims of workplace discrimination.
Critics say it would make it almost impossible for a victim of discrimination to win in court, while proponents say the changes will improve the state’s business climate.
If Greitens doesn’t take action by July 14, the bill will automatically become law. He told the media shortly after the legislative session ended in May that he was “opposed to discrimination” as well as “frivolous lawsuits” and hadn’t decided what he would do. Greitens didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Star or The Associated Press.
Adding fuel to the debate is the fact that the sponsor is Republican Sen. Gary Romine of Farmington, who owns a business being sued for discrimination. An employee of Romine’s chain of rent-to-own furniture stores says in the lawsuit that she was targeted with racial slurs by a store manager, and that the store she worked in contained a map with a circle around an African-American neighborhood and a note saying “do not rent to.” Romine has vehemently denied the accusations in the lawsuit, as well as allegations that he pushed the legislation to benefit his company.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com