Courts Struggle with Questions Regarding Retroactive Application of the MHRA Amendments

By: Cary Burke

The Missouri legislature enacted sweeping changes to the Missouri Human Rights Act (“MHRA”) in 2017, which we previously reported on here

Since the amendments went into effect in August 2017, trial courts have grappled with whether and which amendments apply retroactively. 

To date, no controlling authority has issued from Missouri appellate courts on this issue.  However, trial courts have reached differing conclusions on retroactivity.  For instance, in Billingsley v. Rich Logistics, LLC, No. 4:17 CV 2834 SNLJ, 2018 WL 1924339 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 24, 2018), the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri concluded the amendment regarding individual liability was substantive, rather than procedural, and, thus does not apply retroactively.  Similarly, in Hurley v. Vendtech-SGI, LLC, No. 16-01222-CV-W-ODS, 2018 WL 736057 (W.D. Mo. Feb. 6, 2018), the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri determined the Missouri Legislature’s directive to apply the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework was also a substantive change and does not apply retroactively.

Conversely, in Gaylor v. Kemco Tool & Mach. Co., No. 14SL-CC00054 (St. Louis Cty. Cir. Ct. Oct. 13, 2017), the St. Louis County Circuit Court determined the amendments applying “the motiving factor” standard and the business judgment instruction applied retroactively because these amendments were of a procedural nature.  

The majority of courts to address the issue have determined the MHRA amendments do not apply retroactively.  We will continue to monitor these decisions and will provide updates when the issue is addressed by an appellate court.  Stay tuned.