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Kansas City Missouri Employment Law Blog

Holding your employer accountable for harassment

Being harassed by your supervisor can leave you feeling helpless given his or her position. That sense of helplessness can be even further compounded by feelings of isolation if you report what is happening to your employer in Kansas City, yet little to no action is taken to stop it. Many that we here at Thornberry Brown, LLC have worked with in the past have experienced the same feelings. They often presented the same question that you likely have: Can your employer be held liable in this scenario? 

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the answer to that question is yes. It cites Supreme Court rulings that have assigned employers two basic responsibilities: accountability for the actions of its supervisors and to prevent harassment in the workplace as well as empowering employees to limit the harm that comes from it. For example, if the one harassing you is your supervisor, then reporting it through him or her is likely not an option. Thus, your employer should offer other avenues through which you can bring such activity to light. If and when you take advantage of those, appropriate corrective action should be taken (with you being kept informed of it). 

Man says he was fired for reporting sexual harassment

As you may know, sexual harassment allegations and lawsuits have rocked the high-tech industry recently. The allegations typically involve a female employee who says she was harassed by a male boss or male colleague.

A new case involving a high-tech finance company changes the narrative. 

Missouri's racial tension issue

America has long been known as the "land of the free." Why, then, in recent years, does it often seem the opposite of this sentiment? Racial tension is hardly a new topic in the country, but in Missouri, various incidents have sparked controversy that has eventually led to involvement with civil rights organizations and state laws. 

The "Show-Me-State," recognized for its beautiful landscapes and lively urban areas, has recently become recognized for less endearing traits: racism. An article from CNN describes in detail the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's recent travel advisory for the state of Missouri. In the travel advisory that was issued this past month, the NAACP warns citizens of color that their civil rights could be violated in the state of Missouri -- the first of its kind in the history of the organization. According to the NAACP, the Senate Bill 43, which made it more difficult for citizens to sue for housing and employment discrimination, along with the state's long history of civil rights violations, forced the organization to announce the travel warning. Not only does Senate Bill 43 make legal action harder for people of color, but for minority groups of all kinds, as well.

Detailing your right to overtime pay

Typically, the issue of working overtime in Kansas City may not present that big of a problem considering that working beyond your standard budgeted hours means that you will earn some form of wage incentive. Unfortunately, several of the past clients that we here at Thornberry Brown, LLC have worked with have shared the same assumption, only to later discover that they are paid their normal wages for their extra work. Those who have experienced such a situation usually always have the same question: can an employer do this?

According to the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the answer to that question is a resounding no. It clearly states that for all overtime situations, you must be paid one and one-half times your hourly wage. However, much confusion often exists regarding with constitutes overtime hours.

What are some examples of racial discrimination?

Each day, workers nationwide experience discrimination on the basis of their race. In Kansas City, and across Missouri, it is imperative for victims of discrimination and all employees who recognize unlawful discrimination in the workplace to speak out. Unfortunately, some choose to keep quiet because they are worried about retaliation, which is also unlawful. When employers and other people in the workplace break the law by treating someone unfairly due to their racial background, they must answer for their behavior.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, discrimination on the basis of an employee's racial background takes various forms in the workplace. For example, a working environment that has become hostile due to relentless verbal attacks, or discriminating against someone because of their marital partner's race, violates the law. Other examples of illegal discrimination include terminating an employee's position, refusing to hire, demoting, or denying benefits to a worker because of their race.

Employer retaliation

Racial discrimination can be devastating to employees in Missouri. It can create a toxic work environment, and if reported, can sometimes seem to make matters worse.

As the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports, federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who make claims of racial discrimination or who oppose work policies that they believe violate employer laws. Protected behavior includes intervening to prevent others from being harassed or facing discrimination. While employees who make discrimination claims can still be disciplined or terminated for reasons unrelated to race, if an employer terminates an employee because of a racial discrimination claim, they have fallen afoul of EEOC regulations. Wrongful termination is not the only type of retaliation demonstrated by some employers. Demoting workers or changing an employee's schedule to interfere with his other obligations can also be considered retaliatory if done in response to a claim of racial discrimination.

Is your place of employment a hostile work environment?

Federal law forbids sexual harassment in the workplace. But the law raises many questions, including: What is sexual harassment in a work environment? Is sexual harassment only physical, or can it be verbal? How frequent does the conduct need to be, in order to be considered sexual harassment?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says sexual harassment consists of "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment." The EEOC says the behavior must:

What is considered sexual harassment?

Workers in Missouri like you deserve to go to your job without any fear of being discriminated against or harassed. Fortunately, there are laws in place that are meant to protect you from these serious workplace problems. At Thornberry Brown, LLC, we work with the law to help you combat any workplace discrimination you might face.

The first step to combating sexual harassment is understanding what is considered to be sexual harassment. Unfortunately many women, possibly including yourself, believe that sexual harassment only occurs if direct physical contact is made. That is untrue. If you have suffered from any of the following actions, you have been a victim of sexual harassment:

  • Lewd or inappropriate comments
  • Sexual advances
  • Demands for sexual favors or contact
  • Being treated unfairly because of your sex
  • Being touched inappropriately

New bill makes critics fear wage theft

Employees across Missouri and the country could have changes coming to overtime policies. According to NJ.com, a bill passed by the U.S. House called the Working Families Flexibility Act would change overtime rules to allow a private sector employee to choose between a time-and-a-half overtime wage or time off. Rather than earning extra money, employees could earn extra compensatory time off--1.5 hours of time off for every hour of overtime worked. Employees would also be given the option to change their minds later and be paid out the regular 1.5 times of their hourly rate. This would apply only to overtime hours, or those that are more than 40 hours in one workweek. 

Supporters of the bill believe it could provide greater flexibility for employees, who may want to store up time off to use at a later date. The bill allows for up to 160 hours of time to be stored up by an employee. Many employers are in favor of the bill. Critics of the bill fear employees will feel pressured by their managers to choose comp time, especially in jobs with shifting hours. They fear employers could use the threat of fewer scheduled hours to pressure an employee into taking comp time. Others worry that employees will not be able to use the time when they need it while holding onto overtime pay, essentially committing wage theft.

Men also victims of sexual harassment in the workplace

While most people think of women as the victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, they are not the only ones who are targets. Men are also recipients of unwanted sexual comments, gestures and suggestions made by their female co-workers or bosses. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the law prohibits people from requesting sexual favors, making unwelcome sexual advances or using profound language toward another person in the workplace.

Although the EEOC, reported that women are six times more likely to receive this type of harassment, sexual abuse toward men should not be overlooked. Within a 10-year period, the number of claims filed by men who have been sexually harassed went from 8 percent to 16 percent. These numbers are thought to be low, as some men are afraid that reporting situations of sexual harassment may ruin their reputation or their career.

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