Holman Schiavone, LLC

March 2013 Archives

How physicians can resolve employment contract disputes

It is not uncommon for a doctor who is employed by a hospital or health care system to become involved in a dispute over the terms of his or her employment agreement. Typical provisions in physician employment contracts that are ripe for differing interpretations include those relating to productivity bonuses, termination requirements, geographic scope of work and noncompete clauses. The first thought of Kansas City doctors who find themselves embroiled in a contract dispute may be to sue for violation of their employee rights. But there is a better approach, legal experts say. The first step in handling any employment contract dispute is to remain calm. If you let your emotions take control, the focus likely will become your conduct, making it difficult to negotiate a favorable resolution. Next, carefully review the contract documents to make sure you are not misinterpreting what they say. Your attorney can help with this review.

American Apparel CEO sex harassment claims possibly discredited

Clothing shoppers in Missouri may be interested to know that according to an annual report released by American Apparel, numerous high-profile sexual harassment cases that involved the firm's CEO, Dov Charney, may have been fraudulent. At one point, Mr. Charney was implicated in seven separate cases of allegedly initiating unwanted sexual contact with advertising models and female employees at his company. In one case, he stood accused of imprisoning one woman in his apartment for sexual purposes. American Apparel's report revealed that out of the numerous cases against the CEO, the only one that remains outstanding does not actually accuse Mr. Charney. This class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of all the female workers of the firm, and it accuses an unspecified worker. Other cases that remain in arbitration were settled without monetary liability to American Apparel, and the firm concluded that these matters would not have a negative effect on its business.

As winter winds down, motorcycles take to Kansas City roads

Even as states throughout the nation contend with early spring snow storms, residents of the Kansas City, Missouri area know that spring weather is right around the corner. For many, the warmer temperatures and dry roads mean only one thing-it's time to get the motorcycle out. While bikers may be prepared for it, many drivers of cars likely are not.

Woman sues after being fired for premarital sex

Missouri residents who are interested in workplace discrimination issues may be intrigued by the recent case of a woman who allegedly was fired from her job at a Christian college after her employer learned of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy. She has hired prominent attorney Gloria Allred to sue the school. Last fall, the woman was called into her supervisor's office to respond to rumors that she was pregnant. When she confirmed the pregnancy, she says she was fired. She now claims she was wrongfully terminated. The college says it fired the woman for violating the terms of a two-page contract she signed that prohibited immoral behavior including, among other things, premarital sex. While the woman acknowledges signing the agreement, she says the school applied its rules unfairly. After firing the woman, the school proceeded to offer a job to her then-fiancé, despite being aware that he also had premarital sex. The two have since married.

Drama coach removed after "racy" performance

A part-time drama coach was removed from her position although she was never formally reprimanded after she led students in a production of "Legally Blonde: The Musical," prompting parental complaints about the content of the show. This wrongful termination occurred after the performance had been approved by two different principals and without warning to the drama coach. Students rallied to support the discharged teacher, urging the district to reconsider their actions. The director had a strong history of leading great musicals with record-breaking attendance. After initial parent complaints about some of the show's content, the director changed a few lines to accommodate these sensitivities. However, three weeks later, she was told to resign, or she would be fired. 

The implications of a minimum-wage increase for Missourians

Missouri residents may recall that during his State of the Union address, President Obama recommended raising minimum wage. He proposed that the minimum wage be steadily increased to $9 by 2015, and after that time, he recommended that it be adjusted according to inflation. Currently, wage laws in Missouri require employers to pay $7.25 an hour to non-exempt employees. Most people are in favor of an increase; however, there are a number of organizations who believe that an increase will negatively impact the economy.A worker living on $7.25 an hour can expect to make $7,540 per year if he works half time. If he works full time, he can expect to earn $15,080 per year. Although many people manage to survive on a minimum-wage income, money is very tight for them. They tend to live from paycheck to paycheck, and poor budgeting or unexpected expenses can have devastating effects.

New Missouri bill may change workplace discrimination laws

The Missouri House recently passed a bill that may change the way that workplace lawsuits are handled. If the legislation is approved by the state's senate and governor, individuals who file workplace discrimination lawsuits will have to prove that discrimination was a "motivating" rather than a "contributing" factor.This is not the first time that this type of legislation has been proposed. Similar bills were vetoed by the governor in 2011 and 2012. Proponents of the bill state that its passage will reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits filed in the state. They believe that the law will lead to greater job creation and attract businesses to move to the state, and they also claim that the law will bring the state in line with federal regulations regarding workplace discrimination.

Company involved in Kansas City explosion working without permit

Last month it would have been difficult for anyone in the Kansas City area to avoid coverage of the explosion that tore through a downtown restaurant, taking the life of one person and injuring a total of 15 others. The explosion, which occurred at JJ's Restaurant, located in shopping area County Club Plaza, led to a big fire and confusion as fire fighters worked to find victims and put the flames out.

Missouri legislature considering employment law change

The Missouri Legislature is considering a bill that would eliminate individual liability for workplace sexual harassment. Critics say that the proposed change, which is sponsored by Rep. Gary Cross, would weaken the state's employment laws and make it easier for sexual predators in the workplace to escape the consequences of their actions. Under current law, managers can be sued in their individual capacities for sexual harassment. Being named as a defendant in a sexual harassment case means the manager's name is published on the website maintained by the Missouri court system along with the name of the plaintiff and any other codefendant. Typically, in a sexual harassment case, the entity that employs both the manager and the complaining employee is named as a defendant too.

Wrongful termination findings may be enforced by court

The Missouri Human Rights Act was designed in part to protect workers from discriminatory employment practices. The Missouri Human Rights Commission, which is charged with investigating workplace discrimination and providing remedies for the victims, filed a lawsuit to enforce a wrongful termination judgement against Ashcraft & Associates Electrical Contractors, Inc. The company was ordered to pay an unfairly terminated worker $42,534.50, and it has so far failed to do so. The worker was an electrician hired via the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers chapter located in Springfield. Several individuals heard the employer reference the worker's medical condition when discussing the termination. One of these individuals was a union dispatcher who was later told by the union's lawyer that the termination was illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Chiefs sued for age discrimination

The Kansas City Chiefs organization is facing an age discrimination lawsuit filed by a former maintenance manager for the organization. The man, who worked for the Chiefs for 12 years, claims wrongful termination in connection with his dismissal from employment two years ago. He alleges that although he received good performance evaluations and no complaints about his work performance, he was fired and replaced by a younger worker.The former employee's attorney is seeking to establish at trial that the Chiefs' former general manager, Scott Pioli, micro-managed every aspect of the Arrowhead Stadium complex, including which people were present when the team practiced. The trial is expected to take two weeks to complete. After it concludes, the Chiefs organization will face other age discrimination claims that are pending.

Federal lawmakers debate minimum wage hike

Kansas City readers may have recently heard about President Obama's recent initiative to increase the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage was last increased in 2009, and analysts note that it has significantly lagged behind increases in the cost of living. Since the recession of 2009, a majority of new jobs have gone to workers earning minimum wage, and these workers are predominantly women over the age of 20; about one-fourth of them are parents listing a dependent child. President Obama's proposed changes in federal wage laws, which include establishing a permanent link between minimum wage and the rate of inflation, are a direct response to these relatively new shifts in the workforce demographic. Opponents referred to the potential hike as a rise in the cost of employment and are predicting dire consequences. They point to data from the Southern Economic Journal, which estimates that an increase would cost the economy 467,000 jobs. They assert that low-skill workers will have a more difficult time finding employment and that the increase's negative consequences will be passed on to consumers.