Absence of conflict of interest.
The study's objective was to examine the impact of changes in standard of causation for employment discrimination claims under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) on employment outcomes.
The study used a difference-in-difference analysis and data from the Quarterly Workforce Indicators Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics to estimate the impact of each MHRA standard of causation on employment.
The study found a significant relationship between the MHRA contributing factor standard and lower employment for Black workers when compared to White workers.
This study receives a low evidence rating. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to MHRA standards of causation; other factors are likely to have contributed.
Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA)
Features of the Intervention
The Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) was initially created in 1986 to define and address discrimination in employment (among other areas). Missouri citizens can file charges under MHRA as well as through other methods (e.g., the Civil Rights Act Title VII) if they believe they have experienced employment discrimination. Since the MHRA was started, the standard of causation required to support claims has changed. Originally, claims were determined based on whether the employer’s action was motivated by discrimination. This was known as the motivating factor standard.
In August 2007, the standard of causation for claims under MHRA changed to the contributing factor standard (in response to the Daugherty v. City of Maryland Heights case). Under the contributing factor standard, the amount of evidence that the plaintiff was required to show decreased; they were only required to show that the adverse employment experience was impacted by their protected class. The second update (SB43), in 2017, limited MHRA's protections by increasing the amount of evidence required to have a successful discrimination claim, setting a maximum amount of damages plaintiffs could receive, and removing liability for individuals by changing the definition of employer. This is referred to as the determinative influence standard.
Features of the Study
The author used a difference-in-difference analysis to compare employment outcomes in Missouri (the treatment group) as compared to neighboring states (the comparison group), for each MRHA standard of causation. The sample included 47 Missouri counties and 55 counties in border states (Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Tennessee). The sample counties were located on the border for both treatment and comparison counties. As compared to the neighboring states’ population, the Missouri population had a higher percentage of Blacks (16 percent vs. 9 percent), a lower percentage of Whites (78 percent vs. 84 percent) and Hispanics (4 percent vs. 7 percent) and more people in the workforce among both Black (64 percent vs. 59 percent) and White populations (66 percent vs. 63 percent).
Employment and demographic data came from the Quarterly Workforce Indicators Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics dataset. Employment and job change data were collected from 2000 to 2019 on a quarterly basis for people in Missouri and neighboring states. The author used statistical models to estimate the impact of each MHRA standard of causation on employment outcomes.
The study found that the contributing factor standard was associated with a 10 percent decrease in employment of Black workers as compared to White workers.
The study found that the contributing factor standard was associated with a 7 percent decrease in hires of Black workers as compared to White workers.
The study found no significant change in employment separations of Black workers as compared to White workers in the contributing factor standard as compared to the motivating factor standard.
The study found no significant change in employment, hires, or employment separation of Black workers as compared to White workers between the motivating factor standard and the determinative influence standard.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Because the analysis considered a policy operating in only one state, it is impossible to disentangle the effect of MHRA from the effect of the state itself; this is known as a confounding factor. Although the author matched the counties patterns, it is possible that some findings in the Missouri group were based on other state-specific characteristics not included in the analyses. We cannot attribute the estimated effects with confidence to MHRA, and not to other factors. Therefore, the study is not eligible for a moderate causal evidence rating, the highest rating available for nonexperimental designs.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the policy was implemented in only one state presenting a confounding factor. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to changes in standard of causation for MHRA; other factors are likely to have contributed.