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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.

The original termination slip listed workforce reduction, but later comments by the employer gave numerous reasons, including smoking on the job, complaints by fellow employees and the employee's medical condition. The terminated worker is diagnosed with discoid lupus, which is a skin disease. When reached for comment, the employer said the company closed as a result of the commission's judgement.

Workers can be fired for many legitimate reasons, but they are protected from termination or loss of benefits on certain grounds outlined in state and federal laws. In this case, a state-level commission levied a penalty against the employer to cover damages that resulted from the wrongful termination, including emotional distress, civil rights violation and back pay. The commission decided to pursue unpaid damages in court on behalf of the victim. In other cases, an employment law attorney may be needed to file the initial lawsuit and handle enforcement issues.

Source: News-Leader.com, "Commission sues to enforce judgment in electrician's firing," Thomas Gounley, Feb. 22, 2013

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