Just because a termination or adverse employment action appears unfair does not mean it is actionable under Missouri or federal law. Generally, an employer is not required to provide a reason for terminating an employee, unless an employee complies with specific laws in requesting such an explanation. See § 290.140 RSMo. In Missouri, unless an employee has an employment contract, he or she is termed an "at will" employee. "At will" means that the employment relationship can be terminated for any reason or no reason at all, so long as the basis for termination is not illegal. Examples of unlawful bases for termination include age, disability, sex, race, religion, union activity, whistleblowing, or retaliation for asserting a legal right or opposing illegal activity. We take the time to review with our clients the facts and circumstances surrounding any concern or complaint about employment discrimination.
The Missouri Human Rights Act
The Missouri Human Rights Act is a state law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, sex, national origin, disability, religion and retaliation. These discrimination laws prohibit an employer from taking an "adverse employment action" against an employee based upon the above-stated protected classifications. Adverse employment actions include:
- Refusal to Hire
- Discharge/ Termination
- Pay Reduction
- Reduction in Hours
A claim of retaliation is based upon an employer taking an adverse employment action against an employee as a result of the employee asserting certain legal rights. These legal rights include filing a claim of discrimination or reporting discriminatory conduct.
Federal Employment Discrimination Laws
In 1964, Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This federal law prohibits discrimination in the workplace based upon particular protected classifications. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, and religion. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects individuals over the age of 40 from age discrimination. Title VII provides several rights and remedies to protect against employment discrimination. An employee is commonly entitled to a jury trial on claims of employment discrimination and damages if successful at trial. Available damages include:
- Back pay
- Front pay
- Compensatory Damages
- Punitive Damages
- Injunctive Relief
- Attorneys' Fees
- Filing a Charge of Discrimination
An employee in Missouri making a claim of employment discrimination must usually first file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR). These agencies investigate claims of discrimination made by employees. Once the EEOC or MCHR has completed its investigation, an employee typically receives a notice of right to sue letter and is permitted to file a discrimination lawsuit in court. A skilled attorney is needed to properly assert all appropriate claims and file a lawsuit on behalf of the employee. And a company is required to have legal counsel to defend itself in a discrimination claim filed in court.
The discrimination laws in Missouri have very short and very strict time limits. An employee must commonly file a charge of discrimination no later than 180 days from the last act of discrimination under Missouri law. If an employee misses this deadline by even one day, a claim is probably lost in Missouri.
To set up a consultation, please contact Kevin J. Dolley at (314) 645-4100 or email@example.com. All legal consultations are held strictly confidential.