Employment Law Attorney in Southwest Missouri
If you’re facing discrimination at work, you might feel like you don’t have any options or anywhere to turn. But you’re not alone.
At Paladin Law, our focus is helping the people of Southwest Missouri find justice when they’ve been wronged. That includes those harassed, assaulted, or facing a hostile environment at work.
Employment law in the United States is complicated. Legal regulations and protections exist to make sure employees are treated fairly, have equal opportunities, and are given a safe work environment.
Federal employment laws lay the foundation for workplace standards across the country. Still, each state can also pass laws and regulations, making navigating more challenging if you’re trying to hold your employer accountable. Missouri’s unique employment landscape includes at-will employment, minimum wage and overtime regulations, workers’ compensation, and state-level employment discrimination laws.
Understanding the history of employment law in the US and Missouri is crucial if you face an employment issue.
Federal Employment Law
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a landmark federal law prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It was enacted on July 2, 1964, as a response to widespread racial and gender discrimination prevalent in the United States during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The act was then expanded in 1972 to protect against discrimination based on sex.
Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees. It protects employees and job applicants from various forms of discrimination, including hiring, firing, promotion, and workplace harassment, based on the protected categories.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA, signed into law in 1990, is designed to prevent discrimination against individuals with disabilities in employment and ensure equal access to public accommodations, transportation, and services. It was amended in 2008 to broaden the definition of disability.
Like other federal employment laws, the ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees. It prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in various aspects of employment, including hiring, reasonable accommodations, and accessibility.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
Enacted on Dec. 16, 1967, the ADEA aims to prevent age-based discrimination in the workplace and promote equal employment opportunities for individuals aged 40 and older. In 1986, it was expanded to include specific provisions related to benefits and waivers.
The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees. It prohibits discrimination against older workers in hiring, firing, promotions, and benefits.
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
The FLSA, initially passed in 1938 during the Great Depression, sets federal standards for minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor. It was enacted to address labor abuses and improve working conditions. Over the following decades, the FLSA has been updated to adjust wage and hourly working standards.
A broad-reach law, the FLSA applies to nearly all employers engaged in interstate commerce and regulates issues such as minimum wage, overtime pay, child labor, and record-keeping.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The FMLA, signed into law in 1993, guarantees eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for specific family or medical reasons. It was enacted to help employees balance work and family responsibilities. In 2009, military caregivers were granted leave under FMLA.
Employers with more than 50 employees in a 75-mile radius must abide by the FMLA. It offers job protection and continued health insurance coverage to eligible employees who take qualified family or medical leave.
Equal Pay Act
Enacted on June 10, 1963, the Equal Pay Act addresses wage disparities between men and women performing substantially equal work in the same workplace. It was a significant step towards gender pay equity.
The Equal Pay Act applies to most employers and prohibits wage discrimination based on gender. It ensures that men and women receive equal pay for equal work.
These federal employment laws collectively aim to protect the rights of workers. While the specific protections and application thresholds vary among these laws, they collectively seek to combat discrimination, ensure fair wages and hours, and provide job-protected leave for eligible employees.
Missouri Employment Law
In addition to federal employment laws, Missouri has its own set of laws and regulations governing various aspects of employment. These state-specific laws often complement and sometimes diverge from federal laws, creating a unique legal landscape for workers and employers in the state.
At-Will Employment Doctrine in Missouri
Like many states in the U.S., Missouri follows the doctrine of at-will employment. Suppose you don’t have a written employment contract. In an at-will employment state, you or your employer can terminate your relationship at any time, for any reason, with or without cause. There are limitations to at-will employment. If you feel you’ve been wrongfully terminated, consult with an attorney.
Minimum Wage and Overtime Regulations
Missouri has its own minimum wage and overtime regulations, which may differ from federal standards. Employers must adhere to state minimum wage laws, which can change through legislative updates or ballot initiatives. Additionally, Missouri mandates overtime pay for eligible employees who work beyond a certain number of hours in a workweek.
Workers’ Compensation in Missouri
Workers’ compensation in Missouri is designed to provide medical and wage-loss benefits to employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses. Employers in Missouri are generally required to provide workers’ compensation coverage to their employees, ensuring that injured workers receive necessary medical care and compensation for lost wages.
Employment Discrimination Laws at the State Level
Besides federal anti-discrimination laws, Missouri has its own laws addressing workplace discrimination. These state laws expand protections beyond those offered by federal statutes and cover additional protected categories. Understanding Missouri’s employment discrimination laws is crucial for employers and employees to ensure compliance and protect against discrimination in the workplace. If you’ve been discriminated against at work, contact an employment lawyer to understand your rights better.
Discrimination and Harassment in Missouri
Identifying and Addressing Workplace Discrimination
Discrimination in the workplace can manifest in various forms and is prohibited by federal and state laws. In Missouri, it’s crucial to recognize discrimination based on protected characteristics such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, and more. Identifying discriminatory practices, ranging from hiring bias to unequal treatment, includes recognizing discrimination, understanding disparate treatment vs. disparate impact, and the importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Reporting Procedures and Protections for Victims
Reporting workplace discrimination or sexual harassment is essential for victims to seek justice and rectify unfair treatment. In Missouri, employees and whistleblowers have rights and protections against retaliation for reporting discrimination or participating in investigations.
Internal Reporting: If an employee believes they are a victim of workplace harassment or discrimination, it is often advisable to report the issue internally within the company. Employers typically have policies and procedures in place for handling such complaints. These procedures might involve reporting the incident to a supervisor, manager, HR department, or a designated individual within the organization. To report workplace discrimination in Missouri, check out these tips and guidelines:
Keep Records: If you’re being harassed or discriminated against at work, it is very important to keep a record of every incident, including dates, times, locations, individuals involved, and any witnesses. Documenting these details can be crucial if legal action is pursued.
Review Company Policies: Employees should consult their company’s policies and employee handbook to understand the internal reporting process and any specific steps or contacts provided for addressing harassment or discrimination.
Follow-up: If the issue is reported internally, the employer must investigate. The victim should follow up with HR or the designated contact person to inquire about the progress of the investigation.
External Reporting Options:
If the internal reporting process does help, or if you believe your complaint has been mishandled, consider filing a complaint with external agencies.
In Missouri, the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) is responsible for enforcing the Missouri Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment based on various protected characteristics.
Additionally, employees can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces federal anti-discrimination laws. Filing a complaint with the EEOC is a prerequisite for pursuing a federal discrimination lawsuit.
Retaliation Protections: Both federal and state laws protect employees against retaliation for reporting workplace harassment or discrimination. If an employee experiences retaliation for making a good-faith complaint, they may have legal options.
Please remember that the reporting procedures and legal landscape may change over time, so verifying the most current information is crucial. In severe or ongoing harassment or discrimination, you should consider contacting an experienced employment attorney. An attorney can provide legal advice, assess the merits of a potential lawsuit, and guide the individual through the legal process.
Employee Rights and Benefits
Overview of Employee Rights in Missouri
Employees in Missouri have fundamental rights in the workplace, including protection against discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. They have the right to a safe working environment and fair wages. Missouri-specific aspects of employee rights include protections for breastfeeding employees and the right to privacy.
Employee Benefits, Including Health Insurance and Retirement Plans
Employee benefits are a crucial component of compensation in Missouri. Employers often offer health insurance coverage and retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans. Understanding eligibility criteria, employer obligations, and the value of these benefits is essential for informed decision-making.
Leave Policies and the FMLA in Missouri
Missouri employees can access various types of leave, including sick, vacation, and unpaid, for specific family or medical reasons. The FMLA also applies in Missouri, granting eligible employees job-protected leave for qualified family or medical situations. Understanding these leave policies ensures employees can effectively balance work and personal needs.
Workplace Safety and Workers’ Compensation
Ensuring Workplace Safety in Missouri
Ensuring workplace safety is a paramount obligation for employers in Missouri. Several laws and regulations are in place to guarantee the well-being of employees while on the job. These laws include the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and its state counterpart, the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DOLIR).
Federal OSHA: OSHA is a federal law that establishes safety and health standards in workplaces across the United States. It applies to private and public sector employers and is a foundational workplace safety framework. Under OSHA, employers are required to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that could cause severe harm or death. OSHA also mandates safety training, recordkeeping, and regular inspections to ensure compliance.
Missouri DOLIR: The DOLIR is the state agency responsible for enforcing labor laws and ensuring workplace safety. It collaborates with federal OSHA to oversee workplace safety standards in the state. DOLIR conducts inspections, provides resources and guidance to employers and employees, and investigates complaints related to workplace safety violations.
Overview of Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers’ compensation is a critical component of employment in Missouri, offering essential protections and benefits for employees who sustain job-related injuries or illnesses.
Medical Coverage: Workers’ compensation covers necessary medical treatment, including doctor’s visits, hospital stays, surgeries, and medications related to the work-related injury or illness.
Wage Replacement: In cases where an employee cannot work due to a job-related injury or illness, workers’ compensation provides wage replacement benefits. This typically amounts to a percentage of the employee’s average weekly wage.
Disability Benefits: Workers’ compensation may include disability benefits for employees who experience permanent or temporary disabilities due to a work-related incident. These benefits aim to compensate for lost earning capacity.
Vocational Rehabilitation: In some cases, workers’ compensation may cover vocational rehabilitation services to help injured or ill employees return to the workforce by providing job retraining or placement assistance.
Reporting Workplace Injuries and Seeking Compensation
Reporting workplace injuries and seeking workers’ compensation in Missouri involves specific steps:
Report Promptly: Employees should promptly report workplace injuries or illnesses to their employers. It’s essential to notify employers immediately after the incident occurs.
Complete Necessary Forms: Employers may require employees to complete certain forms, such as accident reports or workers’ compensation claim forms. These documents help initiate the claims process.
Seek Medical Treatment: Employees should seek necessary medical treatment for their injuries or illnesses. Documenting all medical care received in connection with the work-related condition is crucial.
Notify the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation: In Missouri, employees must file a claim with the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation to request benefits formally. This involves completing and submitting the appropriate forms to initiate the claims process.
Consult with an Attorney: Employees may consider consulting with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in complex cases or situations involving disputes. An attorney can provide legal guidance, help ensure the claims process is followed correctly, and advocate for the employee’s rights and interests.
Appeal Process: Employees can appeal through the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation if a claim is denied or disputed. Legal representation can be especially valuable during this stage.
Understanding the wide range of workplace safety laws, workers’ compensation benefits, and the process for reporting workplace injuries is essential for employees in Missouri. It ensures that individuals know their rights, can access the support they need, and navigate the workers’ compensation system effectively.
Minimum Wage and Overtime Regulations in Missouri
Missouri has its own minimum wage and overtime regulations that employers and employees must adhere to.
Minimum Wage: Missouri’s minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum, $12 per hour. However, it’s crucial to note that minimum wage rates can change through legislative updates or ballot initiatives.
Overtime: Missouri follows the federal standard for overtime pay, requiring eligible employees to receive 1.5 times their regular pay rate for each hour worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek.
Employee Classification (Exempt vs. Non-Exempt)
Proper classification of employees as either exempt or non-exempt from overtime regulations is essential. The classification determines whether employees are eligible for overtime pay. Key points to consider include:
Exempt Employees: Exempt employees are generally not entitled to overtime pay. They are typically salaried employees who meet specific criteria related to their job duties and salary levels. Common exempt categories include executive, administrative, and professional employees.
Non-Exempt Employees: Non-exempt employees are eligible for overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. They are typically paid hourly or earn less than the salary threshold for exemption.
Unpaid Wage Claims and Penalties
Missouri has provisions to address unpaid wage claims and penalties for employers who fail to comply with wage and hour regulations. Key considerations include:
Wage Claims: Employees who believe they have not received the wages they are owed, including minimum wage or overtime pay, can file wage claims with the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. This process allows employees to seek the wages they are rightfully owed.
Penalties: Employers who violate wage and hour regulations may be subject to penalties, including fines and back pay. The severity of penalties can vary depending on the nature and extent of the violation.
Retaliation Protections: It’s important to note that federal and state laws protect against retaliation for employees who assert their rights to unpaid wages. Employees should not fear retaliation for pursuing their wage claims.
Please be aware that wage and hour regulations, including minimum wage rates and exemption thresholds, can change over time through legislative updates or regulatory changes. It’s crucial to verify the most current information from relevant state and federal labor agencies or seek legal counsel if you have specific questions or concerns regarding wage and hour issues in Missouri.
Legal Resources and Support
Contacting the Missouri Department of Labor
The Missouri Department of Labor is a valuable resource for individuals and businesses seeking information and assistance with labor-related matters. The department is responsible for enforcing labor laws and regulations in the state. They can access wage and hour issues, workplace safety, workers’ compensation, and more information through this official channel.
Connecting with Advocacy Organizations and Resources
In addition to legal assistance and government agencies, advocacy organizations and resources are available to support individuals with employment-related concerns. These organizations often offer valuable information, resources, and advocacy on various employment law issues, contributing to a better understanding of rights and protections in the workplace.
Finding Legal Assistance for Employment Issues in Missouri
When facing complex employment issues in Missouri, securing legal assistance is crucial. Individuals seeking legal guidance can locate experienced employment attorneys specializing in various aspects of employment law. These attorneys can offer advice, represent clients in legal proceedings, and provide essential support for resolving employment disputes.
Ready to discuss your case?
If you’re suffering from the impacts of workplace harassment, discrimination, or wrongful termination, we can help. Contact Paladin Law today for a FREE consultation.