When Another Point of View began almost three years ago, there was concern among some of our contributors, including myself, about whether we would be able to come up with enough ideas for a weekly column. That has not proven to be a problem.

When Another Point of View began almost three years ago, there was concern among some of our contributors, including myself, about whether we would be able to come up with enough ideas for a weekly column.  That has not proven to be a problem.
In fact, I have found that just reading the newspaper and listening to the evening news on T.V. has insured no shortage of material for future columns.
For example, on December 26th the Neosho Daily News reported an AP story about a discrimination and reprisal suit by an employee of the Missouri Department of Corrections that resulted in a Jury award of almost $1.5 million --- $280,000 in compensatory damages and $1.2 million in punitive damages.
Punitive damages are awards in excess of what the jury feels the plaintiff is entitled to for his claim.  They are intended to send a message to the defendant, in this case the Missouri Corrections Department, to encourage it to make changes in its operation in order to avoid similar suits in the future.  (There have been previous accusations of harassment and discrimination against this agency.)
As a reasonable person, I would have hoped this case, and the others like it, would cause a reevaluation of policies and procedures in order to rectify the problem and improve the work environment for all employees of the agency.
However, the article went on to explain that the legislature and governor had taken a different tack for solving such problems, namely placing a financial lid on how big such jury awards can be.  The new law will place a cap of $500,000 on such suits.
With this approach no reforms are necessary.  Suits become just a part of the cost of doing business, like paying the electric bill. In fact, after determining a company’s or agency’s past rate of discrimination suits, the costs can be built into the budget --- just another line item.
I’m sure this law will also reduce the number of people who will go to the trouble of filing such discrimination suits when they have been wronged by their employer.
No doubt some will say $500,000 should be ample compensation for such suits, and that might be true if some immediate hearing and resolution of the case were possible, but these cases can drag on for years, particularly if there are appeals. Also the attorneys can gobble up a substantial part of the settlement because they often take such cases on contingency. That means if they lose, they get nothing for the hours they have invested in the case.  They make up for that by taking a huge chunk of the cases that they do win.
Suppose, for example, a worker earning $56,000 per year sues for discrimination and unlawful termination from his job.  And further suppose the jury awards him the maximum $500,000 settlement.  If the case takes 6 years to resolve, and if his attorney gets a third of the settlement, then he almost breaks even financially in the sense that he has received six years pay for his six years of hassle.
Meanwhile, he may not have been able to find another job.  Who would hire someone who is labeled a trouble maker and possibly had his face and cause spread all over the local papers?  Many would conclude our hypothetical worker would have been better off to have put up with the ills of his work environment and not spoken out. Perhaps that is the real reason behind this legislation.

James Rhoades writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.