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Kansas City Missouri Employment Law Blog

Most physical therapists have been harassed, report says

A recent survey of physical therapists says more than 80 percent of those surveyed have experienced sexual harassment. Nearly half of the survey participants said they have experienced sexual harassment in the past year.

The survey's authors say those statistics essentially are unchanged since the 1990s.

The importance of taking breaks in the office

Employees in Missouri need breaks throughout the workday in order to recharge their bodies and minds. Although companies have varying regulations regarding the frequency and length of breaks in the office, stepping away from work at some point throughout the day is helpful for employees, and ultimately beneficial for companies as well. According to Health, the typical workweek among Americans has lengthened beyond the traditional 40 hours, and working 60 hours or more is common for up to 20% of employees. This increase in time spent at work may lead to fatigue, stress and more serous health concerns.

One way to combat the negative effects of sitting in an office for extended periods of time is to take short breaks at intervals throughout the day. One study found that morning breaks were particularly beneficial. Employees who reported stepping away from their desks earlier in the day suffered from fewer headaches and similar office-related maladies. A short time of physical and mental separation from work also allowed the majority of the employees to feel recharged and more motivated to tackle their responsibilities.

Combatting discrimination at work

Although the business world should offer equal opportunities for all, discrimination frequently infiltrates the workplace. Women in particular often feel the effects of this unethical treatment in Missouri. While gender discrimination is still very prevalent today, consistently speaking up for yourself and developing professional relationships with confidence may help mitigate its effects. We at Thornberry Brown LLC, Attorneys at Law battle the unfair practices of workplace discrimination, and we stand ready to help you.

According to Forbes, modern businesswomen still face discriminatory tendencies in the workplace on a regular basis. In some cases, you may find yourself fighting harder for recognition and promotions than your male counterparts. If you work on a collaborative project, for example, the men may receive accolades for the group's accomplishments more readily than you or the other women on the team. Similarly, you may voice a suggestion, but a man who voices it after you may receive credit for it. If these situations occur, it is important to maintain a courteous demeanor, but you should also be assertive. Do not feel intimidated about claiming the ideas as your own.

Do comments need to be directed at you to be harassment?

It is likely universally understood that when you place a group of individuals together in an office environment in Kansas City, there will inevitably be conflicts in personality between at least some of them. For example, one of your coworkers may have a tendency to tell jokes or stories that are off-colored or sexual in nature. While not necessarily directed at you, such talk may make you feel uncomfortable. The question is does it qualify as sexual harassment? 

Knowing that not all cases of sexual harassment involve direct overtures or advances or unwanted physical contact, those who establish the guidelines for what qualifies as harassment have extended the definition to include all kinds of activities. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has defined it to include: 

  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature

Workplace discrimination victims have higher burden of proof

Workplace discrimination is an issue that affects many people in Kansas City and around the country. Whether it is age, gender, religion, race, or origin-based, it is an all too real reality that many workers find themselves exposed to every day. When employers use these factors to influence their hiring decisions and employment operations, their actions can create hostile and toxic work environments. 

Some people who experience discrimination at work do not realize it. Many people who are aware that they are being harassed and targeted by their co-workers and supervisors do not report. Although federal law requires most employers to have policies to describe and prevent it, many victims stay quiet because they fear retaliation. Other individuals who do report their employers have trouble proving their cases. Insufficient evidence was the reason that 71.4 percent of the racial discrimination claims filed in 2014 were dismissed, states CNN Money.

Are you an at-will employee?

Your worst fear may be to be fired from your job in Kansas City. Yet you likely hold on to the assumption that your employer cannot fire you without for no reason. Is that true? Missouri, like most states, follows the principle of "at-will employment," which basically allows companies to fire employees for any reason (except an illegal one) or no reason at all. Furthermore, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the at-will presumption allows companies to alter the terms of employment, including cutting wages, reducing paid leave or terminating benefits. After having read this, you likely have one question: Am I an at-will employee? 

If you do not have a contract with your employer, then the answer is yes. An employment contract not only allows you to negotiate your salary and benefits, but also what actions would result in your dismissal. With such an agreement in place, your employer can only then fire you for cause (or in other words, for violating the terms of your contract). 

Employee sues state agency after termination

Most people employed in Missouri know that there are very clear laws defining what may be identified as sexual harassment and what is allowed or not allowed in the workplace. Employers in both the private and the public sector should work to create environments safe from such behavior. They should also make employees feel safe about reporting suspected sexual harassment. Unfortunately this may not always actually happen.

One man today is alleging that a state agency for which he worked fired him unfairly after he relayed to his management concerns about some behaviors he felt might be forms of sexual harassment. After making his reports, the man was terminated from his job without any reason given. There are no known reports about any performance issues with the man while he worked for the agency.

How job misclassification hurts workers

Federal and state laws govern workers' wages and hours. One of the most common wage-and-hour law violations occurs when employers misclassify workers as contractors, instead of employees.

Misclassification is an important issue because it can cost workers thousands of dollars in pay and benefits. When classified as contractors, workers are not covered by laws regarding overtime and workers' compensation. Misclassification also affects payroll tax revenue.

What is subtle racial discrimination?

Racial discrimination may seem as if it would be easy to identify. The reality is that Missouri employers who discriminate rarely do so in obvious ways. Fortunately for you, the law is prepared for subtle discrimination practices. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, racial discrimination is when you are treated differently because of your racial identification. It goes beyond that, though. Discrimination can also include being treated different due to characteristics associated with your race.

The law also protects you from unfair policies that may discriminate against you because you are of a certain race. Policies must always be enacted because they are job-related and necessary. For example, a policy that says you cannot have a beard might be discriminatory if you have issues with your skin when you shave due to being African American.

Work breaks are not an automatic right in the workplace

It may seem like common sense that in the working world, a Missouri employee would have rights to reasonably needed breaks from the work day. After all, workers may need to rest briefly, eat a meal or address another basic need.

As evident as that may be, there is no clear-cut law requiring a meal break or any other kind of break, even after many hours of working.

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