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Republican joins opposition to state sexual harassment legislation

By Marshall Griffin, KWMU

Jefferson City, Mo. – A Republican State Senator has joined Democrats in opposing a bill they claim would make it harder for victims of discrimination and harassment to find justice.

The bill would change the definition of discrimination from, "unfair treatment based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, disability, or familial status," to, "adverse actions motivated by such factors."

Republican Senator Chris Koster of Harrisonville says changing the language means a hostile work environment would no longer be enough to file a complaint.

"Someone who had been subjected to sexually offensive comments or a hostile work environment would actually have to be fired, for them to have any kind of a cause of action."

The bill's sponsor, G.O.P. Senator John Loudon of St. Louis County, disagrees.

"Certainly when we craft legalese like this, there is some language that could be altered very easily, and make sure that it doesn't do that, but I don't believe it does in its current form."

Loudon says the bill's real intent is to provide added legal protection for public schools, and that certain lawyers are using the Fred Ferrell case to attack his bill.

Ferrell recently resigned as State Agriculture Director after a former female employee filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming she was sexually harassed by Ferrell and denied a promotion.