JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers violated the state constitution when they eliminated funding for the salary of an administrative law judge who was accused of discrimination and retaliation, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
The unanimous ruling said lawmakers violated the constitution's separation of powers by using the 2019 budget to try to force the executive branch to fire Administrative Law Judge Larry Rebman.
Rebman had been director of the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations under former Gov. Jay Nixon until he was appointed by Nixon to the administrative judgeship in March 2013 as allegations arose against him. The state later agreed to pay more than $3 million to settle lawsuits claiming Rebman created a hostile work environment and discriminated against older female employees in the labor department. Rebman denied wrongdoing and remained in his role as an administrative law judge, which handles claims for workers' compensation cases.
Lawmakers targeted Rebman in the budget that took effect last July by eliminating the salary for any administrative law judge appointed from 2012 through 2014. Rebman was the only one appointed in that window.
Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetam issued an injunction last July prohibiting the state from enforcing the budgetary exclusion of Rebman's salary. Beetam said the budget bill violated the constitution's separate of powers. The Supreme Court upheld that ruling.
The high court's ruling came just one day after the Legislature gave final approval to a mid-year budget bill that again included no funding for Rebman's position.