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Kansas City Missouri Employment Law Blog

State settles sexual harassment lawsuit for $1.3 million

It was recently reported that a state government paid millions of dollars over a 30-year period to settle sexual harassment claims.

The news came from Florida, where more than $11 million in sexual-harassment settlements was paid for more than 300 cases dating back to 1987.

How can I tell if I'm being sexually harassed?

Given the current climate sweeping across the nation regarding sexual harassment, it makes sense that Missouri's employees are checking out how their own state defines the issue. If you are part of Missouri's workforce, you can rest assured that there are legal protections in place for such cases. Of course, these protections offer much more assistance when you are able to recognize instances of sexual harassment at the time when they occur.

So, how do you know whether you are being or have been sexually harassed? According to Missouri's Department of Labor, it is defined as discrimination based on behavior that is sexually explicit. Sexual advances, verbal and physical contact that is sexual in nature and requests for an employee to perform a sexual favor can all fall under the umbrella of this type of behavior.

The importance of safe working and social environments

Recent events, combined with today's general political climate, have opened the door for much discussion on the topic of sexual harrassment. An issue that plagues America today, inappropriate behavior and remarks are being investigated and -- to many victims' relief -- addressed legally. Despite this step forward in recognizing the abuse that dominates a plethora of work places and other social settings, a great number of men and women experience harassment each day. But what, exactly, does the term sexual harassment encompass, and how can Missouri residents become more knowledgeable about the issue?

It is now commonly acknowledged that sexual harassment affects the entire nation, and millions are left in question of what the term really means. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission outlines the factors that define this pervading problem, first stating that sexual harassment violates the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unwelcome sexual advances and requests for sexual favors are some examples of this type of damaging behavior. The EEOC also debunks the stigma that sexual harassment only occurs toward women; the victim can be of any sex, and does not have to be of the opposite sex. One important aspect of this definition is that the harasser's conduct must also be unwelcome.  

When overtime pay is denied

Sometimes, honest and hard-working employees are subjected to unfair treatment at the hands of their employer. We have talked about discrimination and sexual harassment, but there are many other problems workers may come across. For example, someone may be denied overtime pay that they were entitled to or subjected to another type of wage and hour violation. In Kansas City, and all throughout Missouri, some employers feel as if they can get away with this behavior or that they are immune to repercussions for violating the rights of those they employ. However, this is not true.

If your employer has turned down your overtime pay even though your work schedule has exceeded the number of hours worked according to the law, you should look at your options immediately. This treatment cannot be tolerated and employees who have been denied overtime that they are entitled to according to state law deserve to have a voice and access to compensation for what they have been through. Sadly, some do not know that there are legal options to address this mistreatment and others fear that speaking out will cost them their job. Because of these factors, some employers are able to continue treating employees unfairly and refusing to pay them for working overtime.

Business owner acknowledges company's harassment culture problems

The issue of sexual harassment in the workplace has seemingly been at the forefront of public awareness both in Kansas City and throughout the rest of the U.S. One of the issues that has come to light as a result of the many accusations that have come forth is the seemingly conducive environments that had been created over many years that allowed this sort of harassment to occur. In many cases, victims spoke of being afraid to report what had happened for fear of the power that their harassers possessed. Some may say that this caused many who suspected or even witnessed such abuse to occur to turn a blind eye. 

One of the leaders of a national hospital management firm recently admitted as much after accusations made against his business partner recently came to light. The man acknowledged having heard his partner (who has since taken leave of his position) make inappropriate comments to employees, yet denied having witnessed any groping or other physical contact alleged by accusers. Reports from employees within the company, however, make it appear as though the problem goes beyond management. Some who have claimed to be the victims of harassment have said that their complaints were never taken seriously. The remaining partner has recognized the culture problem and cited recent internal actions as steps being taken to create a safer work environment. 

Reviewing final wage payment requirements

Many in Kansas City likely cannot fathom losing their jobs. If they do, however, they may take some solace in the fact that their employers cannot simply cut off relations with them without providing them with their due compensation. At the very least, a person that loses his or her job is entitled to collect any wages still owed to him or her by his or her former company. 

An employer may choose to pay an employee being let go at the time of his or her dismissal, or at the end of the current pay period. If either of those dates passes without the employee being paid, the Missouri Department of Labor instructs that he or she contact the company informing it of the wages still due. The company then has seven days to pay those wages. If it does not, then it becomes liable for additional wages until the employee gets paid up until 60 days. 

How to measure a workplace's sexual-harassment risk

What if there was a way for an organization to measure its sexual-harassment risk? What if it was possible for an employee (or prospective employee) to determine whether a specific workplace is at high risk for sexual harassment?

A tool for evaluating sexual-harassment risk already exists.

What constitutes sexual harassment?

You may have noticed that recently, there have been several high-profile cases involving claims of sexual harassment, and Missouri is not immune. Allegations of misconduct have been leveled against many celebrities and politicians. You may think some incidents are not as bad as others, but they can all fall under the broad term of sexual harassment.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains that there are a variety of actions and comments that may be viewed as sexual harassment. The yardstick by which these behaviors are measured is whether they affect one’s job performance, employment status or create a job environment that is offensive, hostile or intimidating.

Learning to combat bullying in the workplace

For many Missouri people, the process of going to work each day and earning a living is practically second nature. They arrive at their job and complete their assigned responsibilities to earn a wage and pay for every day necessities. Because work plays such a critical role in the lives of so many people, they may find it difficult to recognize if they are being mistreated in the workplace. Even worse, if people are experiencing workplace bullying, they may be victims of prolonged mistreatment if they do not understand how to combat this surprisingly common problem. 

Forbes reports that a study of thousands of participants revealed that nearly 96 percent of the people surveyed experienced some type of workplace bullying. Other results revealed that 80 percent of bullies had negatively affected five or more of their coworkers. 

Signs of discrimination

Although employers in Missouri are bound by anti-discrimination laws, some companies disregard their responsibility to treat all employees equitably. Here at Thornberry Brown LLC Attorneys at Law, we stand against any company that discriminates against its employees based on any protected class, such as race, age and religion. In order to protect yourself from this unfair and illegal treatment, you should know the signs of discrimination at work.

According to CareerTrend, there are several subtle indications of discrimination in the workplace. You may notice that your company has a disproportionate percentage of one demographic in upper-level positions. This could mean that your superiors are only allowing certain types of people to advance in the company. Another red flag may be the types of jokes that occur in the office. If you hear jokes based on racial slurs or gender, you could be experiencing discrimination.

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