September 2021 Missouri HR Legal Updates

Missouri Law Requires Employers Provide Leave to Victims of Domestic or Sexual Violence

Update Applicable to:

All employers in Missouri with at least 20 employees.

What happened?

On August 28, 2021, Governor Parson signed the Victims Economic Safety and Security Act (VESSA).

What are the details?

The law, effective immediately, requires employers with at least 20 employees to provide employees with unpaid leave and safety accommodations if an employee, a family member, or household member of an employee, is a victim of domestic violence or sexual violence.

A summary of key provisions provided in VESSA are:

  • Leave to any employee who seeks medical attention, victim services, psychological or other counseling, safety planning, or legal assistance for themselves, a family, or household member, if they are victims of domestic or sexual violence.
  • One week’s leave per year for employees of companies with between 20 and 49 employees.
  • Two weeks’ leave per year for employees of companies with 50 or more employees.
  • Leave can be taken intermittently or on a reduced work schedule. However, unpaid leave under VESSA will not be provided if the employee has already used all leave allowed under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Employees must give 48 hours’ notice of their intent to take leave.
  • In the event of an unscheduled absence, the employer cannot take any action against the employee if the employee provides certification of their absence within a reasonable time.
  • An employer may require employees to provide certification in addition to 48 hours’ notice. Employees may satisfy the certification requirement with a sworn statement from the employee plus certain other documentation, such as a police report or court record, detailed in VESSA.
  • Upon returning from leave, an employee must be returned to the same or equivalent employment position.
  • An employee must not lose accrued benefits while on leave.
  • Employers must maintain health coverage for employees while they are on leave under VESSA.
  • Employers may recover the health plan premium paid by the employer to maintain coverage for the employee or the employee’s family or household member if the employee does not return to work for reasons unrelated to domestic or sexual violence.

The law can be read here.

An article on the law can be read here.

What do employers need to do?

Employers should review the law and their leave policies to make the required changes. To stay in compliance, employers should also post the VESSA notice prior to October 27, 2021 for employees to see and notify current and all future employees of their VESSA rights by October 27, 2021. Employers should train their management and human resources professionals on the process and procedures for employees to request and use VESSA.

June 2021 Missouri HR Legal Updates

Missouri Passes Lowered Vaccine Passport Requirements

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Missouri.

What happened?
On June 15, 2021, Governor Parson passed House Bill 271 (HB271) into law.

What are the details?
HB 271 states that no county, city, town, or village in Missouri that is receiving public funds may require vaccine documentation in order for a citizen to access transport systems, services, or other public accommodations.

The bill does not apply to private businesses or employers, and employers are still able to mandate vaccinations in workplaces that are consistent with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance.

The bill can be read here.

An article on the bill can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers may review the information above and the law to be aware of the regulation changes in their area.

October 2020 Missouri HR Legal Updates

Kansas City Passes CROWN ACT

What happened?
On October 1, 2020, the Kansas City, City Council has passed Ordinance No. 200837, also known as the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act.

What are the details?
The CROWN Act modifies the definition of “Race” to include “traits historically associated with race including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” This will protect employees with certain hairstyles from harassment and discrimination related to their hair.

Ordinance No. 200837 can be found here.

An article discussing this ordinance can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Kansas City employers should review and update their workplace policies to reflect this new protected characteristic.

July 2020 Missouri HR Legal Updates

Missouri Limits Punitive Damages in Workplace Safety Lawsuits

What happened?
On July 1, 2020, Governor Mike Parson signed SB 591, which modifies various provisions relating to civil actions.

What are the details?
On July 1, 2020, Missouri has passed SB 591, creating additional restrictions for plaintiffs when filing for punitive damages. SB 591 provides that punitive damages will only be awarded if the plaintiff “proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others.” This language is a change to the previously lower burden on plaintiffs for establishing punitive damages. Additionally, plaintiffs may now only seek punitive damages by submitting a written motion for leave to file a pleading seeking punitive damages and can no longer seek them in an initial pleading. Such motions must be supported by evidence “establishing a reasonable basis for recovery of punitive damages.” SB 591 also establishes that the amount of punitive damages shall not be based, in whole or in part, on harm to nonparties.

Plaintiffs must file a motion for punitive damages no later than 120 days before the final pre-trial conference or trial date. The court must then rule on the motion no later than 45 days after a hearing on the motion, or if no hearing is held, after the defendant has filed its response to the motion.

The full text of SB 591 can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers in Missouri should consult their legal counsel if they are involved in a civil action.

February 2020 Missouri HR Legal Updates

“Ban the Box” Ordinance

What happened?
The City of St. Louis passed “ban the box” legislation prohibiting employers in the City of St. Louis, Missouri from basing job hiring or promotion decisions on applicants’ criminal histories.

What are the details?
The Ordinance will take effect on January 1, 2021, for employers with at least 10 employees unless the employer can demonstrate its decision is based on all available information, including consideration of the frequency, recentness, and severity of the criminal history, and that the history is reasonably related to or bear on the duties and responsibilities of the position.

Further, the Ordinance prohibits an employer from asking about an applicant’s criminal history until after it has been determined an applicant is otherwise qualified for the position.

The Ordinance also prohibits employers from publishing job advertisements excluding applicants based on criminal history, as well as barring employers from including statements excluding applications based on criminal history in job application forms and other employer-generated forms used in the hiring process. Employers also are banned from seeking to obtain publicly available information concerning job applicants’ criminal history.

What do employers need to do?
City of St. Louis employers covered by the Ordinance should consider taking these steps to ensure they follow the Ordinance’s requirements:

  • Review employment applications to ensure they do not include any prohibited inquiries about an applicant’s criminal history.
  • Review their advertisements (paper and electronic) soliciting applications and remove any language that states applicants will not be considered for employment because of their criminal history.
  • Educate key employees in the hiring process about the Ordinance’s requirements.
  • Update forms and practices for inquiring into an applicant’s criminal record, after the initial employment application process is completed.

Violations of the Ordinance may expose employers to significant penalties. For the first violation, an employer will receive a warning issued by the Office of the License Collector, or an order requiring that it come into compliance within 30 days. For the second violation, an employer will receive an order issued by the Office of the License Collector requiring that it come into compliance within 30 days and a civil penalty as determined by the License Collector. After three violations, the Office of the License Collector may revoke an employer’s business operating license.

Article: https://www.jacksonlewis.com/publication/city-st-louis-missouri-passes-new-ban-box-ordinance

Bill: https://www.stlouis-mo.gov/internal-apps/legislative/upload/Ordinances/BOAPdf/71074%20Combined.pdf