Helping Business Help Us
There has been a lot of political talk about fairness lately, with the notion that businesses and consumers are often on opposite sides. Really? There are steps Missouri lawmakers can take that would be fair and beneficial to both, and maybe a boost to the faltering state economy.
In its effort to change the business climate in Missouri, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has identified three broad policy initiatives for the current legislative session. According to Chamber president Daniel Mehan:
“Among the list are issues left unresolved last legislative session that will be advocatied (sic) by Missouri’s top business associations and employers: workers’ compensation reform, employment law, and tort reform,” Mehan says.
Within the context of these broader policy initiatives, the following topics are among the most important issues the Chamber addressed. As briefly discussed below, each deserves careful consideration as a reform measure that can foster economic growth in Missouri.
- Making Missouri employment discrimination law consistent with federal law. Businesses face confusing and parallel obligations under federal and state laws. Making Missouri law consistent with federal law reduces confusion and lowers compliance costs for businesses, which in turn lowers the cost of doing business in Missouri. Consumers and businesses then share the benefits of lower costs.
- Capping damages in employment discrimination cases. Caps make future business costs more certain and predictable. Although the plaintiffs’ bar does not favor this idea, no one is closing the doors to the courthouse. Policymakers should carefully weigh the benefits and costs and make the decision that best advances business competitiveness and the administration of justice.
- Exempting co-employees from liability for injuries sustained in workers’ compensation cases. Currently, employees injured by co-employees at work may sue the latter for damages outside the workers’ compensation system. This gives rise to costly disputes among employees, disruptions in the workplace, and an increase in employer costs (not always monetary). Also, multiple lawsuits for the same injury may occur as the injured employee sues both his employer in workers’ comp and his co-employee in circuit court. Time, money, and effort may be economized by requiring injured employees to maintain a single suit in a workers’ comp venue.
Again, these are but a sample of current issues impacting the business climate in Missouri. These issues are important in that each imposes additional costs on businesses in Missouri. As a result, consumers and households may suffer because they will face higher prices, fewer goods, and lower employment. Remember, we are all in this together, despite what some others may say or imply. Isn’t it possible that sometimes what is good for business is good for the people?