Missouri follows an “at-will” employment doctrine. This means that an employer doesn’t need a valid or specific reason to terminate an employee. However, “at-will” doctrines have limitations. If you believe you were fired for an illegal reason, your first step is to find a wrongful termination lawyer to help you understand your legal situation.
Ask a Wrongful Termination Lawyer: Can I Get My Job Back?
Reinstatement is one of the remedies contemplated by Missouri law if you can prove wrongful termination. Other remedies include back payments and punitive and compensatory damages, depending on the situation. To be considered wrongful termination, you must have been fired under one of the following situations:
Your Termination Was a Form of Discrimination
According to the Missouri Human Rights Act, no person can be discriminated against based on ethnicity, gender, disabilities, age, or religious beliefs. Examples of discriminatory practices include:
- Denial of growth opportunities such as promotions, training, or transfers
- Failure to accommodate an employee with a disability
- Eliminating your position while you are on maternity or sick leave protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
There Was a Breach of Contract
If your contract clearly states a duration, your employer needs to prove they have a valid reason to fire you. If you have a signed contract with a specific term and your employer terminated it early, you might have a case of wrongful termination.
Your Employer Failed to Take Corrective Action Against Harassment
Federal and state laws guarantee protection against workplace harassment. Harassment (sexual or otherwise) is considered a form of discrimination according to the Title VII of the Human Rights Act (1964). Conducts that constitute harassment include offensive jokes, insults, threats, intimidation, physical assault, and any other conduct that interferes with your work performance.
If you were forced to resign due to workplace harassment, you might have the right to be reinstated, and your employer may be forced to take corrective measures to prevent further harassment.
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You Were Retaliated Against
The term “whistleblower” refers to someone who speaks up against illegal conduct. Getting fired because of any of the following reasons constitutes wrongful termination:
- Speaking up against discrimination or harassment or filing a formal complaint
- Reporting safety violations
- Complaining about and reporting wage underpayment (including overtime)
- Refusing to participate in illegal activities
- Joining or forming labor unions
The Process of a Wrongful Termination Complaint and Lawsuit
The first step is to research the best wrongful termination law firms in Kansas City and hire an attorney. Even if you don’t immediately file a lawsuit, you need legal counsel to understand your rights and how to move forward. Always look for licensed lawyers with a proven success record.
Filing With the MHRC
The next step is to file your complaint with the Missouri Human Rights Commission, which will start an investigation that may include interviews with yourself, your coworkers, and your supervisors and a revision of available evidence (such as internal communications, handbooks, and policies). It’s important to note that you only have 180 days to file the complaint. If wrongful termination is proven, they will impose penalties and attempt a resolution.
Filing a Lawsuit
If you cannot reach an agreement, or if the investigation takes more than six months, you can ask for a “notice of right to sue” and take your case to civil court, where you’ll have to provide
evidence to back up your claim. If wrongful termination is proven, the court will determine compensatory actions, which may include reinstatement.
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Clarify Your Expectations
While immediately after being fired, you may want your job back, this may not be the case further down the road. Even if you have the right to be reinstated, it might be difficult or awkward after a complicated legal process. Talk to your lawyer about your expectations, and make choices accordingly.
Learn About Your Rights
Educating yourself regarding your employment rights is an important responsibility. While you need a lawyer to provide counsel and representation, it’s imperative to recognize a human rights or labor law violation and understand your options moving forward.
Thoroughly Read Contracts and Employee Handbooks/Documentation
Before signing an employment contract, take your time to thoroughly review all clauses and ask for clarification if you cannot understand something. Be especially attentive to clauses regarding severance compensation, reasons for termination, exclusive employment, non-disclosure agreements, choice of law, and non-compete agreements.
If you suspect a violation of your rights, start gathering evidence, as it will be crucial if you decide to file a formal complaint or proceed with a lawsuit. Keep a file with records of all communications (including emails, memos, and text messages), and ask for copies of any internal documents regarding your situation (for example, a copy of a harassment or discrimination report to your supervisors).
Before making important decisions, book a consultation with a lawyer to understand all your options.