In its 1984 decision in Hansome, the Missouri Supreme Court required an “exclusive causal connection” between the employee’s exercise of rights under the workers’ compensation statute and the adverse action the employee challenged.  No more.  Today, the Missouri Supreme Court swept Hansome aside and concluded the employee need only show that his exercise of rights under the workers’ compensation statute was a “contributing factor” to the adverse action.  Anticipating the many voices who would agree with the dissenting opinion, the Court stated in a footnote:

 . . . the dissenting opinion likewise asserts the reason this Court has overruled Hansome and Crabtree is due solely to a change of heart by the changed membership of the Court, not based upon a legal need.  Undoubtedly, the membership of this Court, as well as that of the legislature, has changed dramatically since Hansome was decided in 1984 and Crabtree in 1998.  However, today’s decision stems from this Court’s duty to address an appellant’s properly raised challenge requesting reexamination of this Court’s precedent in light of the current legal landscape.  Moreover, reexamination is warranted given the legislature’s expansive enactment of a number of statutes that protect Missouri’s citizens from discrimination, most notably passage of the MHRA.  Given the legislature’s demonstrated intent that discrimination, based on any number of factors, will not be tolerated in the workplace, it is appropriate for this Court to reevaluate the accuracy of the exclusive causation standard.

See the Opinion here.

For additional information, please contact Joe Orlet.