For more than twenty years, Missouri courts have applied the federal McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analysis to determine the outcome of a defendant's motion for summary judgment in claims of employment discrimination. However, the Missouri Supreme Court recently abandoned the McDonnell Douglas framework in favor of a new method of analysis derived from a Missouri Approved Jury Instruction. This new analysis has become known as the "contributing factor" test. In the months since Daugherty, controversy has surrounded this standard. Many defense attorneys claim that the "contributing factor" test significantly lowers the bar that a discrimination plaintiff must meet in order to defeat a defendant's motion for summary judgment. Pre-Daugherty, plaintiffs had to prove the unlawful discrimination was a "motivating factor.", Among other procedural changes, plaintiffs in a post-Daugherty case must show the discrimination was a "contributing factor" in the challenged employment decision. Employers argue that this perceived change puts them at a great disadvantage. While it is true that the shift to a new method of analysis has lessened the burden on plaintiffs who are trying to keep their claim alive, whether the language of the test refers to "contributing factors" or "motivating factors" should be of little concern. This note will argue that the true concern with the Missouri Supreme Court's decision in Daugherty lies in the fact that a plaintiff is no longer required to rebut a defendant's reasons for the alleged discrimination in order to survive summary judgment. This significantly lessens the procedural burden placed on plaintiffs, which will likely result in more employment discrimination claims being heard in Missouri Courts.
Discrimination after Daugherty: Are Missouri Courts Contributing to or Motivated by the Number of Cases on the Discrimination Docket,
73 Mo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/mlr/vol73/iss2/12