Missouri, like many other states, is an at-will employment state. This means that you can be fired for any reason, or no reason, at any time. (See http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/employment-at-will-definition-30022.html). This can make it very difficult to navigate the legalities associated with wrongful termination in Missouri. However, this does not prevent you from filing a claim against an employer for wrongful termination if certain conditions exist. For instance, if you were discriminated against or retaliated against, then you may have a valid wrongful termination claim. Further, if your employer violated a contract, then this could give you some ground to stand on in a wrongful termination case, as well.
Wrongful Termination for Discriminatory Reasons
No matter what state you live in, it is illegal for your employer to terminate your employment for
discriminatory reasons. Discrimination is based on specific characteristics that are protected by federal law in the US. These include your race, your sex, your religion, your age, any disabilities you may have, your citizenship status, and even being pregnant. Unfortunately, while it doesn’t matter what state you live in, it does matter how many employees work for your employer. If your employer has fewer than 15 employees, then you may not have legal protection from discrimination. There are some exceptions, though.
You have federal legal protection from age discrimination if you are over the age of 40 and under the age of 70 and your employer has at least 20 employees. You have legal protection from discrimination based on citizenship status if your employer has at least four employees. Missouri law, specifically, provides legal protection from discrimination for any of these reasons for employers with at least six employees.
Wrongful Termination for Retaliatory Reasons within Missiouri
It is also against the law for any employer to fire you in retaliation for asserting rights that are protected by law. Examples of such rights include making a complaint or cooperating with the investigation of a complaint with the human resources department concerning discrimination, and filing a workers’ compensation claim. If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated for any attempt to confront and put a stop to discrimination or if you have been wrongfully terminated because of discrimination, then you can file a complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and contact an attorney.
Wrongful Termination Involving Breach of Contract in Missouri
In some states, a contract can be implied, verbally agreed to, or created through the statements found in an employee handbook. In Missouri, however, an employment contract must be written and signed in order to change the employment from the standard at-will status. Once this has been done, however, your employer cannot fire you without a good reason. If they do, then you have wrongful termination claim involving breach of contract. You should contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options if this has happened to you.
Wrongful Termination for Complaints Concerning Wages and Hours for Missouri
Sometimes, people find themselves wrongfully terminated for making complaints concerning their wages and hours. Missouri’s minimum wage is currently $7.70 per hour, and anyone works over forty hours per week is entitled to overtime pay. Missouri does not require that your employer allow for breaks, though if they do, and if those breaks are twenty minutes or less, you are still entitled to be paid for that time. If you make any complaints about not being paid appropriately or participate in the investigation of any such complaints, and your employer fires you because of this, you can pursue a wrongful termination claim.
Wrongful Termination for Taking Time Off Of Work
When it comes to taking time off of work, you are protected by federal laws and Missouri state laws when you take time off work for certain reasons. These reasons include serving in the military, serving on a jury, taking time off to vote, and taking time off for family reasons or medical reasons. Even so, these protections do have limits.
Federal law protects your job for five years when it comes to military service. State law protects your job when you serve in the state organized militia. You are also legally protected when you have jury duty, and you do not have to use your vacation time or sick days to do so. You are further allowed to take time off to vote while the poll are open, though you must actually vote to be paid during this time. You are not entitled to this time off if the polls are open for at least three hours during the day when you are not scheduled to work.
Finally, your job is protected by federal law when it comes to family and medical leave, in accordance with the FMLA – Family Medical Leave Act. This applies to any employer with at least fifty employees, and they must allow you to take up to twelve weeks off (without pay) for any kind of serious medical issue in yourself or a family member, for the birth o a child, and for certain issues that may be relevant to the military service and injury of a family member
Wrongful Termination for Other Reasons
If you report issues and violations concerning workplace safety or if you report or refuse to engage in illegal actions or actions that are against public policies, and if you are fired for any of these reasons, then you will have a valid wrongful termination claim. You can also pursue a wrongful termination claim if you are fired for something that you do when you are off duty and not on the premises of your employer, such as smoking cigarettes, for example.
A Missouri Employment Attorney Can Help You Pursue Your Wrongful Termination Claim
Although it can be difficult to prove wrongful termination, you would be wise to contact a Missouri employment attorney if you believe that you have been fired for any reason which you are legally protected from. The attorneys at the Krause & Kinsman Law Firm will provide a free consultation, evaluate your situation, and advise you on how to proceed.
Adam Krause is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Adam Krause has made a career of taking complicated litigation and presenting it in the most elementary terms for a jury of your peers to understand. Learn more about his experience here.