The at-will status of employment in Missouri generally means that employers can fire their workers for any reason, or no reason whatsoever, except for circumstances that are protected by anti-discrimination legislation. But there are exceptions.
Missouri employers are not able to terminate workers for reasons that are at odds with the state’s public policy. One example that would open the door to a wrongful termination lawsuit is if a company fires an employee who exercised his or her right to collect workers’ compensation benefits. Another could be if an employer threatens a worker with termination if they don’t commit perjury at the employer’s behest.
One group of workers who have been protected from such retaliation are Missouri whistleblowers, who fall under the exception of public policy. The Free Dictionary defines whistleblowing as “the disclosure by a person, usually an employee in a government agency or private enterprise, to the public or those in authority, of mismanagement, corruption, illegality or some other wrongdoing.”
Whistleblowers are legally protected by both state and federal laws from retaliatory acts that negatively affect their employment. These laws are in place to protect workers who blow the whistle on safety and health violations or when they become aware of fraudulent activities in their workplace.
One example of fraud could be overbilling for Medicare or Medicaid services or for services that are unperformed or unnecessary. Many employees tend to look the other way when they become aware of violations because they are afraid they will be fired after reporting. These legal remedies protect workers and level the playing field a bit.
Whistleblowing employees may also qualify for often substantial cash payouts that depend upon the monetary sum that is recovered from the company due to the whistleblowing act. In Missouri, an employee has five years from the date of the retaliatory act in which to file a lawsuit.
To learn more about whistleblowing laws, contact a Missouri employment law attorney.
Source: Workplacefairness.org, “Filing a Whistleblower or Retaliation Claim – Missouri” Jan. 06, 2015