The job market is in a state of upheaval. Many workers have quit their jobs to look for greener pastures, while employers have been squeezed by rising costs. These rapid changes to the job market have also led to many employers cutting ties with former employees. Although employers may generally fire anyone at any time in Jackson County, Missouri, there are restrictions on employee dismissal. If you believe your firing was unjustified, you may want to consult a wrongful termination lawyer.
But how does a wrongful termination lawyer build a case to defend a wrongfully fired employee? It starts with a careful examination of applicable laws from both the federal and state level. Next, your lawyer will examine the specific details of your case to determine if there are grounds for a lawsuit. Even though the company’s lawyers are likely to protest, an experienced legal team can still bring a solid case to court and seek justice for you.
How A Wrongful Termination Lawyer Builds a Wrongful Termination Case
Relevant Federal Laws
Before considering local laws, your lawyer will first consider all relevant federal work laws. These apply to all businesses in the United States regardless of location. In addition, violations of federal law typically carry harsher penalties compared to state law. As a result, companies are more likely to settle out of court to resolve the issue. Consider some of the federal laws that might apply to your personal case.
For instance, the Family and Medical Leave Act gives employees a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave in certain circumstances. These include childbirth, adoption, or serious illness in the immediate family. The only condition is that the company must employ 50 people or more. We have seen many cases where an employee lost their job after becoming pregnant or after hearing that a family member had fallen ill. Their employers sought to evade paying 12 weeks of leave.
Violations of EEO Laws
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, creates rules to protect employees from retaliatory firings. In fact, retaliation is one of the most common causes of wrongful dismissal. For example, if an employee lost their job shortly after asking their employer to accommodate a disability or religious practice, their dismissal could be considered retaliation. You don’t even have to be fired for a violation to occur. Threats, transfers to inferior positions, or an abrupt schedule change can qualify as well.
As employees have recently been seeking higher wages, EEO violations are on the rise. Employers cannot prohibit employees from discussing their salaries, though many certainly try. Likewise, employees are protected if they testify against the company during an investigation. We have dealt with many cases where employees were fired after cooperating with OSHA investigators after an accident. Federal law prohibits retaliation in all of its forms. If you feel your firing was retaliatory, tell your lawyer.
Jackson County, Missouri Law
In addition to federal laws, Missouri also has state laws that protect workers. These laws apply to individuals and businesses in Jackson County, Missouri. However, Missouri is an at-will state, which means that both the employer and employee have the right to terminate their relationship at any moment for any reason.
Nevertheless, Missouri has a public policy exception to this law. What this means is that you cannot be fired for acting in accordance with other established laws. For example, what if your employer asked you to accept payment in cash off the books? If you refuse and are then terminated, you could charge the employer for wrongful termination as you were acting in alignment with established Missouri law.
Missouri Human Rights Act
Missouri has also codified anti-discrimination rules that prevent employers from firing an employee based on the grounds of race, color, age, nationality, religious beliefs, sex, or disabilities. The Missouri Human Rights act specifically details these protections. This law also prohibits discrimination in housing and public spaces, though most of it is centered on workplace protections.
Many people do not realize that the Missouri Human Rights Act also includes protections against sexual harassment. Sexual harassment includes verbal and physical conduct. If you feel that your firing was motivated by your choice not to submit to inappropriate requests or comments, tell your lawyer right away. In addition, gender-based harassment is covered by this law. Gender-based harassment includes using disparaging terms or negative stereotypes based on gender. All such actions are prohibited in the workplace in Missouri.
Initial Consultation and Exploration
The federal and state laws we’ve discussed will serve as the basis for your wrongful termination lawyer’s initial consultation. When you sit down with your lawyer for the first time, they will ask you questions to determine whether any of these laws may have been violated. If the details of your case warrant further investigation, your lawyer will ask you to provide any evidence you have to support your case.
Text messages, emails, and records of your interactions with other employees can serve as evidence to bolster your case. If you have any recorded conversations, these may also be helpful. Another employee’s testimony could also be used, though this is often the last resort as many employees are afraid to speak out in these cases. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff in a wrongful termination case, so you will need to have some evidence.
Discussion With Company Lawyers
Now that your lawyer has material to work with, they’ll begin to build a case to challenge your former employer. The case cites the laws that were violated and the evidence obtained to prove that the violations occurred. However, your lawyer’s goal is not to rush straight to court. It is far more beneficial for you to get economic relief right away, and the fastest way to do that is to settle out of court.
Your lawyer will contact the company and likely end up speaking to their defense attorneys. After reviewing the case, your lawyer will make an offer for a settlement out of court. Of course, you ultimately have the final say in the matter. If you are unsatisfied with the settlement amount, or if the company refuses to settle at all, then the case will have to proceed to court.
Presenting Your Case to a Court
Your lawyer will file a lawsuit with a Jackson County, Missouri court. The court will set a date for a hearing to determine if a proper trial is necessary. You may still engage in discussion with your employer to settle out of court and withdraw the lawsuit during this time. Once a date for a trial has been established by the court, you and your lawyer will prepare for the trial.
During the trial, your lawyer will present all of the arguments in your case to the courtroom. A jury will decide whether to render judgment in your favor or not, which is why it’s very important to have an experienced, talented lawyer at your side. If the jury agrees with your claims, the judge will order your company to pay compensation.
Get the Best Representation
After carefully considering the laws we’ve discussed here, if you believe your dismissal was unjust, reach out to our offices. Call Holman Schiavone to schedule a free consultation with one of our devoted attorneys.