Employment Discrimination & Sexual Harassment

Employment Discrimination and Sexual HarassmentWhat is classified as employment discrimination?

We are Springfield wrongful termination lawyers.  As an employee, you are sometimes faced with the unfortunate situation of experiencing discrimination while at work.  In Missouri, you may be protected by the Missouri Human Rights Act.  Any employer who has six (6) or more employees is covered by this law, which prohibits your employer from discriminating against you based on your race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, disability, or in retaliation for your having taken certain types of actions. These criteria are often referred to as “protected classes.”  For more information, see the Revised Statute of Missouri, §213.055, or contact an attorney immediately.

If you believe that your employer has taken a negative action against you, which can include transferring you to another position; giving you a bad performance review; or even terminating your employment, and you believe that your being a member of one of the protected classes referenced above played a role in your supervisor’s decision to do so, you may have an employment discrimination case. It is in your best interest to contact an attorney immediately if that situation has occurred as very strict timelines govern this area of law. In employment discrimination claims, you must file a Charge of Discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and/or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within either one hundred eighty (180) or three hundred (300) days of the date you were harassed or discriminated against. You should contact us about your specific case as we are Springfield Missouri discrimination lawyers.

What is sexual harassment?

As Springfield sexual harassment lawyers, we have handled a variety of sexual harassment claims.  In Missouri, there could be two (2) potential causes of action if you believe you are being treated differently, or unfairly, at work because of your gender. If you believe you are being treated unfairly purely because you are a woman or man, such unequal treatment is typically referred to as gender discrimination.  However, if you believe you are being treated differently or unfairly based on a coworker or supervisor’s having taken a sexual interest in you, such unequal treatment can be a second type of claim called “sexual harassment.” In Missouri, to prove a claim for sexual harassment, you must prove that: you are a member of a protected class;

  • that you were subjected to unwanted sexual harassment;
  • that the harassment was based on your sex;
  • that the harassment effected a term, condition, or privilege of your employment; and
  • that your employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take proper remedial action. Howard v. Burns Bros., 149 F.3d 835, 840 (8th cir. 1998)

As you can see, proving a sexual harassment case goes far beyond proving that a coworker or supervisor made a sexual comment to you or touched you in a way that you found to be sexually inappropriate. The law also requires you to show, in certain circumstances, not only that you experienced sexual harassment, but that the harassment was “severe and pervasive” and permeated the work environment. As a result, it is much more difficult to prove a sexual harassment claim than what most people may believe. To make sure that your rights are protected, and that you begin the complaint process within the applicable timelines, it is your best interest to speak to an attorney immediately. We are Springfield Missouri sexual harassment lawyers.

What is age discrimination?

Both Missouri and federal law protect you from being discriminated against by your employer because of your age. In most cases, you are protected if you are over the age of forty (40) years of age.  If you believe that your employer has taken a negative action against you, whether it be a comment based on your age, or something more drastic like termination, then it is your best interest to contact an attorney so that they can determine whether you have been subjected to age based discrimination.  In Missouri, in order to prove an age discrimination case, you must show that you were subjected to a discriminatory act, that you are a member of the protected age class, that your membership in that age class was a contributing factor in the employer’s decision to take the discriminatory action, and that as a direct result of your employer’s conduct, you suffered damage. Stanley v. JerDen Foods, Inc., 263 S.W.3d 800, 803 (Mo. App. 2008). Please contact us immediately if you believe you have been discriminated against based on your age, and we would be happy to evaluate the facts of your case and help you determine your options moving forward. We are Springfield Missouri age discrimination lawyers.

What is disability discrimination?

Employees are often injured while on the job. When this situation happens, the result could be a Missouri Worker’s Compensation case.  However, at the end of that case, you may be left with a permanent disability.  Additionally, many workers have injuries and diseases that did not occur in the work place, but still result in disability that affects their ability to work, or compete for jobs to the same degree as individuals that do not have the same injury or disability.

In Missouri, employers are prohibited from discriminating against their employees based on their status as a disabled person.  To prove a disability discrimination case, you must prove that your employer took a discriminatory action against you, that you are a member of the protected class based on your disability, and that your disability was a contributing factor in your employer’s decision to take the discriminatory action. Finally, you must also prove that as a direct result of your employer’s conduct, you suffered damage. Lomax v. Daimler Chrysler Corporation, 243 S.W. 3d 474, 479-480 (Mo. App. 2008).

Disability discrimination cases are often more difficult than they initially seem, especially when they are in the context of a work place injury. Often, the rules prescribing whether your employee can terminate you in worker’s compensation are different than the rules that apply under the Missouri Human Rights Act, the law that protects you from disability discrimination in the work place.  As such, it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney immediately if you believe that you have been discriminated against based on your disability so that they can evaluate the facts of your specific and particular case, and inform you as to whether you may have a disability discrimination claim. We are Springfield Missouri disability discrimination attorneys.

What is the Family Medical Leave Act?

Under the FMLA, if you have worked for a year, and have worked more than twelve hundred fifty (1,250) hours during that year, and your employer has at least fifty (50) employees within seventy-five (75) miles of where you work, you may be entitled for up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave during each calendar year. This leave is unpaid, but it does provide some level of assurance that after your health condition has resolved, there will be a job waiting for you at your employer’s place of business. There are, however, significant limitations to your eligibility, beyond those addressed above.

First and foremost, an employee cannot take FMLA leave for just any medical reason, like the need to attend a doctor’s appointment. Instead, the leave must be required due to a “serious health condition” of you or someone in your immediate family. In 2008, there were additional amendments made to the FMLA that can provide additional periods of leave for employees who are with family members that have been called up for duty in the military, or who are returning home from combat with injuries that require at home care.

Many employers have an extensive documentation process that you must go through before you are eligible to take FMLA leave. In some circumstances, it will require that you provide documentation from your employer to your physician, who will fill the documents out, and give them back to you to provide to your supervisor or human resources representative. If you believe that you or someone in your immediate family has suffered a serious health condition that requires time off on your part, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney quickly to make sure that your rights are protected and that your employer does not terminate your employment. If you are retaliated against for taking FMLA leave or denied FMLA leave you should contact us. We are Springfield Missouri FMLA lawyers.

What is whistleblowing and how do I claim retaliation because I told the truth?

In Missouri, employees are provided a number of protections if they are forced with the difficult proposition of “blowing the whistle” on their employer. This situation can occur in a variety of contexts.

First, you are protected from retaliation by your employer if you are subjected to harassment or discrimination in the workplace, and report it to a supervisory employee, or if you witness a co-employee being subjected to harassment or discrimination, and report it to your employer. Those protections will also be extended to you if you report the harassment or discrimination to the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and/or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The second type of situation where this can occur is if you have reported your employer to the Department of Labor for a wage an hour issue, to OSHA based on a dangerous condition or situation in the workplace, or other state and federal agencies based on something that you believe to be illegal or unsafe occurring at work. Many of the laws involved (OSHA, the Fair Labor Standards Act, etc.) have protections contained within the statute to make sure that your employer does not retaliate against you for your involvement in either reporting aspect or in the investigative phase.

Lastly, you are also entitled to protection from retaliation if you have to report your employer for a violation of a Missouri regulation, law, or statute. In Missouri, if you are reprimanded or terminated for reporting your employer for violating a law, you may have a cause of action called “violation of public policy.” That type of case is often called a “tort” which means a civil offense. In Missouri, we have a public policy that seeks to encourage employees to report and “blow the whistle” on their employer if something unsafe or illegal is occurring in the workplace. As a result, if your employer terminates you for doing so, this may be a potential remedy for you.

In any or all of the above circumstances, it will always be in your best interest to consult with an attorney to determine whether or not the type of action that you took was “protected conduct” from the outset, and if it was, whether the action taken by your employer was illegal or violated Missouri public policy. Please contact us at Preston Law immediately if you need assistance dealing with a “whistle-blower” or retaliation situation.

If you feel that you have been subjected to discrimination in the workplace in any of the above referenced areas, please contact Preston Law for an appointment with one of our experienced attorneys. We are Springfield Missouri wrongful termination lawyers. Our office phone number is (417) 616-5000 or you can reach us toll-free at (866) 953-6736.  You can also contact us online with the form provided on the sidebar of this page.