Employment Law

Our employment law and civil rights practice provides legal services for both employees and employers. Our experience in serving both groups allows us to provide better advice as to potential claims and strategies.

Examples of how we help employees:

  • Employment discrimination – the law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, pregnancy, age, or disability. Discrimination can come in various forms, including harassment, termination, demotion, hostile work environment, refusal to accommodate, refusal to hire, failure to promote, unequal pay, or retaliation for speaking up about discrimination.  We have successfully litigated employment discrimination claims against public officials and against both large and small employers.
  • Wrongful termination and other retaliation – laws protect workers in some circumstances from being fired or otherwise retaliated against – such as for using military leave, accessing workers’ compensation, using FMLA leave, or complaining about legal or ethical violations (“whistleblowing”).
  • Wage and hour violations – laws require that employees be paid a minimum wage, that certain employees be paid overtime, that certain employees be paid for all “time worked,” and that minimum rest breaks be provided. Employers also sometimes misclassify workers as “independent contractors” when they really are employees, or as “exempt” employees when they are actually entitled to overtime pay.  For example, we have successfully litigated class actions on behalf of restaurant employees whose tip credits were not properly applied, causing them to be paid a lower rate than allowed by law.
  • Employment agreements – we frequently assist employees in negotiating employment or non-compete agreements, and in resolving issues that arise under those agreements.
  • Violations of National Labor Relations Act – Under the NLRA, an employer cannot forbid or retaliate against an employee for discussing work conditions (including the amount of compensation) on non-work time, and cannot retaliate against employees for participating in organization activities.
  • WARN Act Violations – the federal WARN Act requires some employers to give at least 60 days’ notice before laying off workers or closing a facility, in certain circumstances. If you have been laid off without sufficient notice, we can evaluate whether you could be entitled to damages and help you enforce your rights under this statute.

Examples of how we protect civil rights:

  • Fair housing – Similar to employment discrimination, it violates federal law to deny a person housing because of color, disability, familial status, national origin, race, religion, or sex. For example, we have filed actions to hold landlords accountable for refusing to accommodate renters with disabilities.
  • Public accommodation – Public accommodations (such as airlines, restaurants, or stores that are generally open to the public) cannot deny service based on a protected category or refuse to offer a reasonable accommodation to a person with a disability.

Examples of how we help employers:

In addition to our general business practice (contractual disputes, business formation, etc.), we help employers with issues relating to their employees, such as:

  • Discrimination defense – We have successfully defended several employment discrimination claims brought against our clients, from the complaint filed at the EEOC all the way through the court of appeals, if necessary.
  • Employment policy review – Laws and workplace customs are continually evolving. One of the best ways to reduce employment issues is to have clear policies that are responsive to the latest legal changes.  We can review existing policies and manuals, or to assist in drafting new ones.
  • Non-compete and employment agreements – we are experienced in drafting, defending, and enforcing employment and non-compete agreements.
  • Investigations – When an employee alleges harassment or hostile work environment, many employers choose to have an investigation conducted by a neutral, outside observer who can advise as to the credibility of the allegations and the best course moving forward. We have experience in conducting this type of investigation, and can tailor an investigation to fit the scope of the allegations and your budget.
  • Employee classification issues – using independent contractors can be beneficial in many situations, but misclassifying a worker as an independent contractor can be a very costly mistake. We can help you evaluate whether your worker is truly an “independent contractor” or an “employee.”
  • Unemployment claims – we provide advice and assistance in responding to unemployment claims, including an overview of the process, an honest assessment of whether the claim should be challenged, and assistance with appealing a negative determination.

Our Firm's Employment Law Attorneys

Published on: November 14, 2019:7:38 pm

In a recent case, the Missouri Court of Appeals considered the question of whether a former employer can be sued for negligence after giving a positive reference to a former employee who then abused a child in the course of his new employment.  The court held that there is no currently-existing common law duty in Missouri that would impose liability in this case.

The case is Doe by and through Doe v. Ozark Christian College, 579 S.W.3d 220 (Mo. App. S.D. 2019).

If you have questions about what a former employer can and cannot say in response to an inquiry or reference request, you should contact an employment law attorney.

Kansas City passes ordinance prohibiting salary-history questions.  Kansas City, Missouri has passed an ordinance, effective on October 31, 2019, that prohibits employers from asking applicants about their previous salaries or using past salary information to decide whether to offer an applicant a job.  The ordinance also has a non-retaliation provision which prohibits an employer from refusing to hire an applicant because that applicant refused to provide salary history to the employer.

The ordinance has multiple exceptions.

If you have questions about what questions can be asked in an interview or considered in connection with a hiring decision, you should contact an employment law attorney.

DOL has issued final rule for exempt salary level

On September 24, the U.S. Department of Labor published its “final rule” raising the minimum salary level for exempt employees.  That rule means that, effective January 1, 2020, an employee must be paid at least $679/week ($35,308/year) in order to be considered “exempt” under the “white collar” exemption.  Employees who were previously under that exemption who are not paid according to the new salary requirements must generally be paid overtime for in excess of 40 hours per week.

The new rule is an increase from the current minimum of $455/week ($23,660/year).  In 2016, the USDOL issued a rule which would have increased the minimum to $913/week ($47,476/year), but that rule was blocked by the courts before it took effect.

Before this rule takes effect, employers with salaried exempt employees should consider whether to increase those employees’ pay or to make those employees eligible for overtime.  If you are an employer or an employee who has questions about how this or other wage and hour regulations affect you, you should contact an employment law attorney.

U.S. Supreme Court considers whether Civil Rights Act protects LGBT workers from discrimination

In two separate cases this week, the United States Supreme Court considered whether federal law’s protection against discrimination “based on sex” extends to employees who were terminated because of sexual orientation or gender identity.  The law says that it bans discrimination based on race, religion, national origin and sex.  The question before the court was rather “sex” includes only a person’s designation as  biologically male or female, or whether it also includes a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or transition from one gender to another.

In states like Missouri which do not provide separate discrimination protection based on gender identity or sexual orientation, the Supreme Court’s decision will likely be the deciding factor on whether people who are fired or harassed at work have any viable legal claim.  At CVDL, we will continue to monitor this important and evolving issue.

Social Media policies and the workplace

A current hot topic is what employers can and can’t allow in a social media policy.

Generally speaking, an employer can restrict an employee’s use of social media during work hours, but what about other times?  As an employee, can you be fired for something you posted on social media? What about something you merely “liked?”  Can your employer restrict your social media usage away from work? Can your employer require you to (or forbid you from) identifying yourself as an employee on social media?

As an employer, can you prohibit an employee from certain social media activities? Can you discipline or fire an employee for something he or she posts on social media?

The answers to these questions likely depend on a lot of factors, such as what type of business the employer operates, whether the posts were related to that business, whether the posts were political in nature, the nature of the employee’s job, and whether the employer has a written social media policy in place.  If you have questions – either as a business/employer or an employee – about social media and the workplace, one of our employment attorneys would be happy to discuss with you.