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2726 S. Brentwood Blvd. St. Louis MO 63144

Missouri Employment Law: the broad reach of the Daugherty Standard at the summary judgment stage

In 2007, the Law Offices of Kevin J. Dolley presented what seemed to be a simple argument to the Missouri Supreme Court. The argument was that the same standard used in trying an employment discrimination case should be the same standard applied at the summary judgment phase. After the trial court and Court of Appeals disagreed, the Missouri Supreme Court adopted the argument. The Missouri Supreme Court noted: “Daugherty argues that his claims should have survived summary judgment because he alleged genuine issues of material fact as to whether age or disability were ‘contributing factors’ in the City’s termination decision. The application of MAI 31.24 at the summary judgment state of MHRA employment discrimination claims is an issue of first impression for this Court.”

The Court evaluated my firm’s proposed legal contention and determined that “[t]his Court find that the ‘contributing factor’ language used in MAI 31.24 is consistent with the plain meaning of the MHRA. Analyzing summary judgment decisions under the standards set forth in MAI 31.24 is appropriate because a plaintiff has no higher standard to survive summary judgment than is required to submit a claim to a jury.” The court continued that “Daugherty’s claims for age and disability discrimination can survive summary judgment if there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether age or disability was a ‘contributing factor’ in the City’s termination decision.”

The Firm has watched with great interest as the adopted Daugherty standard spread thoughout Missouri law and to federal courts applying the standard under the MHRA. In an interesting development, in June 2009 the Missouri Court of Appeals applied Daugherty in a Missouri whistleblower claim under Missouri common law. The court indicated that “the Missouri Supreme Court found that summary judgment should seldom be used in employment discrimination cases, because such cases are inherently fact-based and often depend on inferences rather than on direct evidence. Daugherty v. City of Maryland Heights, 231 S.W.3d 814, 818 (Mo. Banc 2007). Whistleblower actions and other public policy wrongful discharge cases are also inherently fact-based and depend on inferences rather than direct evidence. In both types of cases, summary judgment is appropriate where evidence could not support any reasonable inference for the employee.” (citations omitted).

Beyond tort-based wrongful discharge claims, several Missouri cases have cited Daugherty as the standard at the summary judgment stage in Missouri. To properly evaluate and determine the merit of any case prior to summary judgment, legal counsel with experience evaluating and handling cases subject to the Daugherty standard is important. The Law Offices of Kevin J. Dolley's development of the actual legal standard and defense and prosecution of cases under the standard has made us a leader in this area of law in Missouri.

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The Law Offices of Kevin J. Dolley represents clients in labor law, employment law and employment discrimination matters throughout the State of Missouri, including St. Louis, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Boone County, Jefferson County, Lincoln County, Jackson County, Phelps County, Franklin County, Ste. Genevieve, St. Clair and the Cities of St. Louis, Kansas City, St. Charles, O'Fallon, Lake St. Louis, Hillsboro, Troy, Clayton, Rolla, Columbia, Jefferson City, Kirksville, Farmington, Cuba, Augusta, Union, Maryland Heights, Cape Girardeau and Springfield.

Law Offices of Kevin J. Dolley, LLC - Missouri Employment Lawyer
Located at 2726 South Brentwood Blvd. St. Louis, MO 63144. View Map
Phone: (314) 684-8180 | Local Phone: (314) 645-4100.