After pushing back on a decision made by its national headquarters to issue a travel advisory in Missouri, a local branch of the NAACP now “wholeheartedly supports” the move.
The NAACP passed an emergency resolution in July, the first of its kind, to warn people of color of the dangers of travel throughout Missouri, citing, among other concerns, a law that rolls back discrimination protections for employees of the state.
“Race, gender and color based crimes have a long history in Missouri,” the resolution reads.
But shortly after the advisory was issued, the St. Louis County NAACP called on the organization to rescind it, saying it could hurt the region’s economy and harm African-Americans working in the hospitality industry.
On Saturday, officials from the county chapter said in a statement that they had a change of heart “after additional study and consultation with our state conference.”
They argue that the new law, Senate Bill 43, has been falsely marketed as bringing Missouri into line with more than 30 other states that have similar policies on the books.
After further review, they now fear that Missouri would be the only state in the nation scaling back protections in cases of housing or public accommodation discrimination, giving the example of a restaurant manager refusing to seat a family on the basis of race, age, sex or disability.
“Those who sponsored this bill have used deceptive tactics to conceal what they’ve actually done,” said St. Louis County NAACP President Esther Haywood in a statement. “They’ve taken away our protections from unlawful and immoral discrimination. Just how far back in time are they planning to take us?”
A spokesman for the county chapter could not be immediately reached for additional comment.
Currently, Missouri workers need only prove their protected status was a “contributing factor” to prevail in court. For example, if a Hispanic plaintiff is fired for being late for work while white workers show up late and aren’t fired, the Hispanic employee could ask a jury to compare the treatment and contend that race “contributed” to the boss’s decision.
Under the new law, which goes into effect Aug. 28, the same employee would need to meet a higher standard: The worker would have to show that race explicitly “motivated” mistreatment through, for example, written documentation of racist comments.
Additionally, the measure curbs whistleblower protections and caps damages for successful plaintiffs based on the size of the company.
The bill was among several changes to the state’s legal system backed by the GOP-led Legislature and Gov. Eric Greitens, who want to make a less favorable climate for lawsuits.
“Tort reform is important. We need to prevent trial lawyers from killing good jobs,” Greitens said in a statement after signing SB 43.
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