Employment Lawyer in Kansas City
In 2001, the female employees of Walmart filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the company engaged in gender biased discriminatory conduct against its female employees. When the case reached the United States Supreme Court in 2011, nearly 1.5 million women had joined the lawsuit, making it one of the largest class action employment law claims in history. Although in a four to five decision the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs had to file individual lawsuits and could not sue Walmart as a class, the case shed light on some of the discriminatory practices that take place in workplaces nationwide every day.
Moreover, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reported that over 2,144 discrimination charges were brought against employers in Missouri in 2017 alone, but employment law does not just encompass discrimination in the workplace. It also involves legal matters, such as improper payment of wages and overtime, wrongful termination, and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) violations. Regardless of how they’re categorized, employment law cases are complex legal disputes that should always be approached with the guidance and legal expertise of an employment law attorney.
Federal Employment Laws in Missouri
When an employment law attorney evaluates your case, they have to consider both the state and federal laws that apply in your unique scenario. Employment laws in general are intertwined at both the state and federal level, and the state of Missouri is no exception.
What is the Civil Rights Act?
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was one of the most significant accomplishments of the civil rights movement. The Act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and ensured that all American were given equal access to public places and public utilities, such as transportation and schools. Moreover, this piece of legislation was one of the first steps towards the prohibition of discrimination in the workplace.
Since 1964, there have been several additions to the Civil Rights Act both by law and binding precedent such as U.S. Supreme Court and Appellate Court decisions. Presently, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against its employee(s) on the basis of any of the following criteria:
- National Origin
- Sex (which includes sexual orientation or gender identity)
- Physical or Mental Disability
Does my Employer have to Adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act?
Under federal law, employers with 15 or more employee must obey the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for an employee with a qualified disability, including things such as:
- Modifying existing structures so they can be accessed by a disabled employee
- Job reassignment or restructuring
- Schedule modification
- Acquiring or modifying equipment
- Modifying or adjusting exams
Moreover, under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), the state places many of the same responsibilities on employers to accommodate disabled employees and has made the provisions of the Human Rights Act applicable to employers with six or more employees. However, both the ADA and the Human Rights Act provide that employers are obligated to make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees so long as it does not place an “undue hardship” on the employer. Due to the fact that determining whether an accommodation places an undue hardship on an employer is a matter of law, you should always consult with an employment law attorney if you believe you employer has committed an ADA violation or a violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act.
Who is Protected Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act?
Discrimination can take many forms, one of which is discrimination based on age. To address this issue, congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) in 1967. The ADEA prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in any aspect of employment such as:
- Job Assignments
- Any other term or condition of employment
However, the ADEA only protects workers who are 40 years of age or older. Moreover, the ADEA does not prohibit employers from favoring an older worker over a younger worker, and the ADEA only applies to employers with 20 or more employees.
Age Discrimination Under the Missouri Human Rights Act
However, similar to the situation with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Missouri Human Rights Act places many of the same responsibilities on employers within the state as its federal counterpart, and the MHRA applies to employers with six or more employees.
What is the The Family and Medical Leave Act?
As employees and family members, we are constantly trying to balance our work with our family obligations. By recognizing this fact of life, Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993. This law allows certain employees of covered employers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave while having their position within the company protected by law. However, there are only certain scenarios that allow you as an employee to utilize FMLA leave. Some of the most common scenarios where FMLA leave could be utilized are listed below:
- The birth of child and time for you to care for a newborn child
- If you are adopting a child or having a child placed with you through the foster care system, you can elect to take FMLA during the placement process and to care for the newly placed child during the first year.
- You can elect to take FMLA leave to care for a child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition.
- If you have been diagnosed with a serious health condition that precludes you from performing your essential job functions, you can elect to take FMLA leave in order to recover.
Who is Eligible for FMLA Leave?
Although these scenarios are common, only certain employees are eligible for FMLA leave, and only certain employers are required to grant an employee leave under FMLA. With respect to employees, an employee must have worked at least one year and a minimum of 1,250 hours during the previous year for an employer with 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius to be eligible for FMLA leave.
Moreover, only employers with 50 or more employees are obligated to grant an employee leave. Unfortunately, the state of Missouri does not have any laws that currently address an employee’s entitlement to FMLA leave. The state simply enforces the terms of the Family and Medical Leave Act as provided under federal law.
What is the Fair Labor Standards Act?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law that establishes the federal minimum wage, child labor laws, overtime pay, etc. As with many areas of federal law, each state must abide by the standards codified within the FLSA, but the state is not prohibited from enacting laws that increase the standards of the federal law, such as setting a statewide minimum wage that surpasses the federal standard.
Federal Minimum Wage
Under the FLSA, the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour for non-tipped employees. The federal minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13 per hour. However, the employer must be able to show that the employees tips combined with direct wages equal or surpass the $7.25 per hour minimum wage requirement. If the employer cannot demonstrate this, the employer is obligated to pay their employee(s) the difference.
Missouri’s Minimum Wage
If you are employed in Missouri, the state minimum wage is $7.85 per hour for non-tipped employees and $3.925 per hour for tipped employees. Additionally, Missouri state minimum wage laws for tipped employees work the same as federal law in the sense that if an employee’s direct wages and tips do not equal the state minimum wage hourly rate, 7.85 per hour, the employer is obligated to pay their employees the difference needed to bring the employees hourly wages to $7.85 per hour.
Federal and State Overtime Laws
In Missouri, both the state and federal overtime laws are the same. An employee, who has worked more than 40 hours in a week, must be paid an overtime rate of one and one half times their hourly rate of pay for each hour over the 40 hour work week.
Missouri State Employment Laws
Every state has the ability to enact their own laws governing the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers operating within the state. These laws can vary significantly depending on which state you are in, which is you should always consult with an employment law attorney if you believe your employer has violated any provision of state or federal employment laws.
Is Missouri an At-Will State?
Missouri is considered an “at-will” state. This means that your employer can terminate your employment at any time without reason. The logic behind this is that you and your employer have equal rights with respect to the termination of employment. You can terminate your employment with your employer at any time without reason just as your employer can. However, from a practical perspective, this can be a fairly unbalanced assessment of the power that you and your employer each have in your relationship, but there are limitations to this rule.
When can I File a Wrongful Termination Suit in Missouri?
The provisions of being an at-will state do have limitations. For example, employers that are covered by provisions of the Civil Rights Act such as the ADA, ADEA, etc. are prohibited from retaliating against employees for filing a discrimination claim under federal law. The term “retaliation”,as it applies to federal employment laws, encompases disciplining, harrassing, and firing an employee.
Moreover, the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) extends the same protection to employees from retaliation from an employer for filing a discrimination claim as federal law, but by state law, the pool of covered employer is much more stringent due the fact that the MHRA applies to employers with six or more employees.
Can I be Fired for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Under the Missouri Workers’ Compensation Act, employers are prohibited from terminating their employees for filing a workers’ compensation claim. However, due to the passage of Senate Bill 66, the burden of proof that has been placed on the employee has become much more complicated and complex.
An employee must prove that their workers’ compensation claim was a motivating factor in their employer’s decision to terminate them. The Missouri Workers’ Compensation Act defines a “motivating factor” as a factor that had a determinative influence on the discharge, which places a much higher burden of proof on the employee. If you have been fired as a result of filing a workers’ compensation claim, you should always consult with an aggressive employment law attorney to determine if this burden of proof can be met.
What is the Missouri Human Rights Act?
The Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) is a state law that governs discrimination in the workplace and other aspects of employment and civil rights law. Similar to the Civil Rights Act, the MHRA has specific provisions prohibiting workplace discrimination based on any of the following:
- National Origin
However, unlike certain provisions of the Civil Rights Act, employers with six or more employees are considered covered employers that must abide by the provisions of the MHRA.
Employment Law Attorney in Kansas City, Missouri
Regardless of how far our country has come in the fight against discrimination in the workplace, employers discriminate and break other employment related laws every day. Often, these actions can have a severe impact on employees both financially and emotionally, but you are not in this fight alone.
The employment law attorneys at the Barnes Law Firm have dedicated their careers to fighting for the rights of workers, and we are dedicated both professionally and morally to holding employers accountable for workplace discrimination and violations of employment and labor laws. So call our office today to request a free consultation and find out how an aggressive employment law attorney can help you.
The Barnes Law Firm Helps Clients in Kansas City
If you believe that an employer has violated your rights in the workplace, it is crucial that you seek help from an experienced attorney. At the Barnes Law Firm, we strongly believe that all employees deserve a fair workplace free from unlawful discrimination, retaliation, and wrongdoing. Our trusted attorneys handle all cases of employment law violations and prepared to fight your case to the very end. The law doesn’t tolerate workplace misconduct and neither should you. Call today to schedule a free consultation and get started on the better side of justice.