Guide to Wrongful Termination Missouri: Laws, Exceptions, and Options
Although Missouri is an at-will employment state, you may be able to file a claim for wrongful termination in Missouri if certain conditions are met. Learn more here.
Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney
June 17. 2021.
What Constitutes Wrongful Termination Missouri?
The State of Missouri follows the employment-at-will doctrine. That means employers can fire employees for almost any reason or no reason as long as they don’t have a written employment contract promising them employment for a certain period. However, this rule has exceptions. For example, if an employer is retaliating or firing you for discriminatory reasons, you may have been wrongfully terminated. Additionally, you cannot be fired if the termination violates public policy.
Employees’ legal rights are also protected under the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Civil Rights Act (Title VII), as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects the right of employees to return to work after taking leave for specific reasons.
If you believe that you are facing discrimination-based or similar employment issues, reach out to the wrongful termination attorney at the Missouri Employee Rights and Employment Discrimination Center at the Benjamin Law Firm. Take advantage of the free consultation our law firm offers to find out what your next steps should be and get knowledgeable legal advice.
Wrongful Termination Laws Missouri
The rights of employees are protected under state, as well as federal laws. For example, under federal law, an employer cannot discharge an employee because of her or his race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, or sex.
Employers cannot discharge employees as retaliation because employees were asserting their rights, filing complaints, or being a part of the investigation against discriminatory practices.
If you believe you are being discharged because of discrimination or retaliation, before filing a lawsuit you should also file a complaint to the appropriate government agency. The Missouri Commission on Human Rights enforces the Missouri Law that prohibits discrimination. Our employment lawyers can handle your lawsuit as well as complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
How Can a Wrongful Termination Attorney Help?
In addition to retaliation and discrimination, there are additional reasons that can make your discharge illegal, including:
- Breach of Employment Contract
- Wage and Hour Issues
- Taking Time Off Work
- Refusing to Violate Public Policy
In the State of MO, an employment contract has to be written and signed in order to alter at-will status. If you have a written contract, and your employer fires you for no good reason, you may have a legal claim for breach of contract.
If you as an employee make a complaint regarding wage and hours or are involved in legal proceedings concerning wage violations, and you get fired, you have the right to pursue a wrongful termination claim.
An employee can take time off work for several reasons, including serving on a jury, taking time off to vote, military service, as well as taking medical leave, or taking time off for family reasons. Although an employer cannot fire you because of these reasons, these protections also have limits you have to be aware of.
An employee cannot be terminated because she or he has refused to engage in acts that will violate a public policy. If an employee refuses to violate the law or any clear public policy mandate or reports these illegal actions or wrongdoings to public authorities, that cannot be the reason for their discharge.
In addition, employees cannot be fired because they have exercised their right to file workers’ compensation claims, because of their off-duty conduct, or because they have reported a workplace safety violation.
If you have been fired because of any of these reasons, then your termination may be considered wrongful and you’ll have a good reason to file such a claim.
Is Wrongful Termination in Missouri Hard to Prove?
It can be difficult to prove that you have been wrongfully terminated. For example, if an employee believes he or she was fired because of conduct protected by a public policy such as whistleblowing, an employer may argue that was not the reason for termination. An employer could argue that an employee in question violated company rules (for example, they were late to work or broke other company rules).
If employees are not able to gather evidence that would prove their claim, they should reach out to qualified employment lawyers to help them build their case.
What Can You Do If You Were Wrongfully Terminated?
If you believe your employer is creating a workplace atmosphere that is violating discrimination laws, you should first make a formal complaint to your employer. That way, you would give him or her the opportunity to make things right before taking any legal action.
If you get fired because of making the complaint or because of any other illegal reason, search for adequate employment attorneys immediately. Don’t try to fight this battle on your own.
The Missouri Employee Rights and Employment Discrimination Center has the experience, resources, and skills to advocate on your behalf or offer you legal advice. Our results in obtaining verdicts against discriminative employers speak for themselves.
Wrongful Termination Settlements in Missouri
Last several years the number of wrongful discharge claims filed against MO employers is less than it used to be. According to the EEOC, in 2020 about 1,400 claims were filed. Most of them are due to retaliation.
If you were wrongfully terminated, and you filed a lawsuit, you can expect to receive damages, providing you and your employment attorney have won the case. In case you reach a settlement, the amount of money you will receive is determined by several factors, including lost benefits and earnings, reason of discharge, emotional distress, and expenses of finding a new job.
If you were wrongfully terminated, the average MO settlement you can expect ranges from $5,000 to $10,000. On the other hand, if you decide to go to court the usual jury awards are often higher, and can sometimes reach up to $300,000.
Our Kansas City wrongful termination lawyer at the Missouri Employee Rights and Employment Discrimination Center can work with you and assist you in getting the highest compensation possible.
Can You Sue for Wrongful Termination in Missouri?
Of course, you can sue for wrongful termination. However, your results are not guaranteed. An experienced employment lawyer will be helpful in listening to your story and advising you if your case is worth going after.
Bear in mind an employee can’t file a wrongful termination claim simply because she or he has been terminated. But, if an employee rejects to commit illegal activity, files a workers’ compensation claim to exercise their workers’ compensation rights, or decides to report issues or violations concerning workplace safety and gets terminated, that termination is in violation of public policy.
So, if an employee, for example, reports their employer to the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations because of Missouri’s minimum wage violations, they would have a valid wrongful termination claim. If they are successful in proving their wrongful termination case, they may be able to recover lost wages, damages for mental and emotional distress, and other damages available.
A qualified employment attorney can help you with filing a wrongful termination claim and guide you through the procedures of pursuing legal action.
Pay attention not to miss certain deadlines when submitting a claim. Here, you can find out more about the timeline of a Missouri employment discrimination claim.
How to File a Lawsuit for Wrongful Termination
Getting fired can be stressful and difficult. Sometimes it can be hard to sort through the facts or even assess whether your claim is valid. The crucial step in this process is to contact a knowledgeable Kansas City employment lawyer. A professional can explain to you your options and what to do for the best possible result.
Under Missouri law, an employer can’t fire an employee because he or she refused to break the law or because they have reported their employer for breaking the law. Numerous Missouri courts have held that employees have been wrongfully terminated in these cases. In addition, employees can’t be fired for participating in jury duty or joining a labor union since these terminations would also be in violation of public policy.
Although Missouri is an at-will employment state, meaning that employers can fire employees for any reason and employees can quit for any reason, these reasons constitute wrongful termination in violation of public policy. On the other hand, employees who are employed under employment contracts can only be fired under the conditions of the contract. In case of firing without a good cause, an employee would have a legal claim for breach of contract.
Whether you decide to negotiate a settlement, file a wrongful termination claim and sue your employer in court, or try to get your job back, our attorneys can help. Our law firm has what it takes to protect the rights of employees and hold their employers accountable for their actions.
Contact us today by phone at 816-281-0941 or send us an email to discuss the circumstances of your discharge. We serve clients throughout the MO side of the Kansas City metro area.
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