If you have been fired by your employer in Missouri you may be able to sue for wrongful termination if your employment was terminated illegally under Missouri labor laws. Most employees in Missouri working on hourly wages are employed under at-will conditions. Employers can terminate an employee’s employment at any time without having to give a reason. However, if you believe that you were fired due to discrimination or for some other reason that is illegal in Missouri, then you can make a formal complaint to a state or federal agency. If the issue cannot be resolved, you have the right to pursue resolution through the civil court. Pursing a lawsuit against your employer is a challenging process and you are advised to seek legal help from an employment lawyer.
What is At-Will Employment?
At-will employment is the most common arrangement for waged employees in Missouri, as it is in most other states. It does not apply to those on salaries or who are employed on employment contracts. At-will employment allows both employers and employees to terminate employment at any time without having to give notice or reason for termination. Employees who are employed under an employment contract or agreement can only be fired under the conditions of the contract. Employment contracts also determine things like wages, hours of work, duties, work benefits, if any and what notice should be given before termination.
Missouri law restricts at-will termination in certain circumstances. Employers cannot fire an employee because they have claimed workers’ compensation, for example. In fact there are a number of reasons why at-will employment cannot be terminated legally. If an employee is fired for any of these reasons, they have grounds for filing a complaint with the state or federal anti-discrimination agency or state labor department.
A common reason given by employees who have been fired is that they have been discriminated against. Missouri law prevents employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of a number of ‘protected categories.’ Discrimination is illegal on the basis of:
- religious affiliation.
What are My Rights in Wrongful Termination?
If you believe that you were fired illegally because of discrimination or any of the reasons given below, you may have the right to sue your employer. However, you cannot pursue a lawsuit directly without first going through the process of filing a complaint with the relevant agency such as the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) or the federal equivalent, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). These are the agencies that deal with any instance of workplace discrimination. The Missouri Department of Labor (DoL) will investigate other prohibited practices, such as firing an employee because of:
- refusing to do anything illegal on instructions from an employee;
- claiming workers’ compensation;
- taking allowed family or medical leave as determined by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Suing for Wrongful Termination
If you believe that you have grounds for suing your employer for wrongful termination, you will need to file a complaint first with the relevant state or federal agency. The MHRC is the state body that regulates and investigates cases of workplace discrimination. The EEOC is the equivalent federal body but restricts its responsibility to cases of discrimination in workplaces of 15 or more employees. For other reasons for termination which you believe are illegal, you will need to file a complaint with the Missouri DOL
Each of these agencies has its own process to be followed. Your complaint must be supported by as much evidence as possible which demonstrates that you were a victim of wrongful termination. Each agency will investigate the complaint and attempt a resolution. When illegal termination can be clearly demonstrated the agency has a range of penalties that can be imposed on the employer.
In most cases, if no resolution of the complaint can be achieved, you then have the right to pursue a lawsuit through the civil court. Remedies which you could pursue include:
- back and/or forward pay;
- damages for emotional distress;
- punitive damages;
- Reinstatement of employment.
Get Help Today
If you are considering suing your employer for wrongful termination, seek legal help from an employment lawyer today. The lawyer will be able to assess your grounds for taking legal action and determine whether you have sufficient evidence to support your case for compensation.
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