If you’ve recently been fired in Missouri, you may have questions such as “Was my termination legal?” and “What options do I have?” Since employment law is complicated, and Missouri is an at-will employment state, you’ll want to consult a wrongful termination attorney to learn if your employer has fired you illegally. Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about wrongful termination in Missouri.
Ask a Wrongful Termination Attorney: Is Wrongful Termination a Crime in Missouri?
Missouri follows the at-will rule regarding employment, meaning an employer can usually fire an employee at any time, with or without reason. However, specific situations and circumstances override the at-will employment statute. Wrongful termination is illegal in Missouri and technically qualifies as a crime, as it is behavior determined by common or statutory law as worthy of punishment.
Missouri Law: What Constitutes Wrongful Termination?
On a state level, Missouri has specific exceptions to its at-will employment law, most involving termination being used against an employee as retaliation for particular behaviors. On a federal level, it is illegal for your employer to fire you for discriminatory reasons. Unfortunately, while that may sound straightforward, this type of law has many loopholes. A Kansas City wrongful termination attorney is critical to navigating the various aspects of wrongful termination law.
Characteristics that are protected by federal law regarding employment termination include citizenship status, race, sex, religion, age, disabilities, and even pregnancy. Whether your termination can be considered wrongful termination is impacted by the number of employees your employer has.
Employers with less than 15 employees might be safe from most wrongful termination suits on the grounds of discriminatory behavior unless the employees discriminated against meet specific parameters. For example, if your employer has at least 20 employees, and you are between 40-70 years old, you have protection against discrimination due to age. Your citizenship status is safe from discrimination if your employer has a minimum of four employees.
In Missouri, laws at the state level prevent an employer from discriminating against you because of your race, religion, ancestry, country of origin, sex, age, HIV/AIDS status, ancestry, disability, or genetic information. The state laws also protect you from being fired in retaliation after asserting legal rights. An example would be if you file a complaint that you were overlooked for advancement due to your sex, your employer cannot legally fire you for that complaint.
Also, an employer cannot terminate you for making efforts to stop discriminatory behavior in your workplace, such as testifying in court about discriminatory practices or participating in the investigation of a discrimination case. If you want to file a lawsuit, you must first file a complaint with a government agency that enforces the state’s laws. The Missouri Commission on Human Rights is the agency you contact before filing a discrimination or retaliation lawsuit.
Breach of Contract Termination
Breach of contract can be grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit in Missouri. Unlike some states, a verbal agreement is not sufficient proof of contract for a breach of contract termination case.
Instead, you will need a written employment contract you and your employer have signed. If you have a written, signed contract and your employer terminates you without reasonable justification, you have grounds for a lawsuit and will want to contact a wrongful termination attorney.
Wage Complaint Termination
Suppose you believe your employer has fired you because you complained about your wages or participated in the investigation of wage and hour complaints. In that case, you can file a claim for wrongful termination. Common issues regarding wages and hours in Missouri are inappropriate hourly wage payment and failure to observe overtime pay.
Another issue that sometimes occurs is if your employer allows breaks, and your breaks are under 20 minutes, but they attempt to withhold that time. Missouri doesn’t require employers to allow rest or meal breaks, but if they do, they must pay employees for breaks lasting less than 20 minutes.
Time Off Work Termination
Both federal and state laws permit employees to take time off work for specific personal responsibilities and civic duties. Workers in Missouri cannot be fired or disciplined for using these rights or fulfilling these civic obligations:
Jury duty is considered a civic obligation, and employees are entitled to unpaid time off for jury duty. Employers cannot retaliate against employees for participating in jury duty. They also cannot force employees to use their vacation, personal, or sick leave on these days.
Family and Medical Leave
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act mandates that companies with more than 50 employees must offer eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off in the event of a severe health issue. This time off can also be used to care for a medically compromised family member, the birth of a baby, or to address issues arising from a family member’s military service.
Employers must grant employees time to vote unless an employee already has three hours off work during polling hours. The time an employee spends voting during the workday is compensated.
Federal law mandates that employees have the right to take up to five years of leave for military service. In addition, they have the right to be reinstated upon their return to work. They are also protected from discrimination from their employer because of their military service.
Regardless of whether your goal is to get your job back, receive compensation for your termination, or sue your previous employer, an attorney can guide you through the process and help you achieve the best possible outcome. Don’t accept a wrongful termination from an employer; contact an experienced lawyer to defend your rights.