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Kansas City Missouri Employment Law Blog

How should I behave at my office holiday party?

Many workers in Missouri will be attending holiday parties throughout this month. While spending quality time with co-workers can be a great way to strengthen bonds and access opportunities, it can also land you in hot water if you're not careful. That’s why The Muse offers the following tips, which can help you navigate your work’s holiday party without incident.

Don’t drink too much

Why should you take breaks at work?

When you were hired for your job in Missouri, chances are your employer informed you of how often you would be allowed to take breaks. While it may be tempting at times to continue and work throughout designated break periods, this time is imperative to your safety, wellbeing and productivity at your job. If your employer does not provide adequate breaks, you may consider voicing your concerns because breaks are a necessary part of being a productive worker. 

By law, it is required that you take breaks while you are at work. The amount of time you are given may vary depending on whether or not you work full-time and how many other people there are within your shift that needs a break. 

Know your rights as a pregnant worker

Finding out you are pregnant can be the beginning of an exciting adventure, but for many working women it can also be the beginning of pregnancy discrimination. Two major United States companies have recently been accused of pregnancy discrimination, which suggests this form of discrimination is still occurring around the country despite it being illegal.

On Sept. 21, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Walmart Inc. for forcing pregnant workers to go on unpaid leave and denying the requests of pregnant workers to take on easier tasks. On Nov 12, arbitration began for a similar lawsuit, in which The Wonderful Company, which sells Fiji Water, Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice and other food products, was accused of wrongful termination and other forms of pregnancy discrimination.

Are there exemptions to the FLSA?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulates things like overtime pay and the minimum wage, among many other workplace matters. While a wide range of workers is covered by the FLSA there are also quite a few exemptions. The U.S. Department of Labor offers insight into these exemptions so both workers and employers remain fully apprised to their rights.

Exemptions for salespeople

Changes to long-standing policy in favor of employees

When an employee is the victim of harassment either by a coworker or superior, settling the case is often a complicated process of working through private arbitration to protect the identity of the victim while giving the company the best chance at maintaining its reputation. For many victims in Missouri, these efforts to provide both parties with protection may feel more like an effort to protect their employer without a second thought for the harassment they have endured. 

However, with a drastic change to a long-standing policy in a recent discussion of sexual harassment in the workplace, it was determined that employees of some big employers such as Facebook, Google, Airbnb and eBay are now legally able to sue their employers if they have been the victim of sexual harassment. Google was the first company to rescind its previously mandatory requirement that private arbitration is used in cases where an employee was harassed. Facebook announced its decision to do the same thing just a day later with eBay and Airbnb following suit shortly after that. 

Should I come out as transgender in the workplace?

For transgender people, navigating everyday life is a lot more difficult than it is for others. This is especially true within the workplace, where many trans people will need to make the tough decision of whether to disclose their status or keep it hidden. While there is no right or wrong answer in this case, the Human Rights Campaign offers the following advice.

Unfortunately, there are not yet federal discrimination laws in place to protect trans workers. However, many states have taken it upon themselves to enact such laws or utilize existing discrimination statutes to protect the rights of trans people. Some businesses have also taken the same steps by including anti-discrimination language in human resource handbooks.

Sexual harassment is damaging on a company-wide level

When people arrive at their job each day in Missouri, they expect to perform their responsibilities in an environment that is safe and free of discrimination. However, there are undoubtedly times when people behave poorly toward each other which can ultimately result in feelings of discomfort, anxiety and even hostility in severe cases. Intervening before these issues create a danger is a primary goal of many companies and one that can be achieved with the timely implementation of policies designed to protect employees. 

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment can come in a variety of forms. First, it can be sexual and cause people to feel uncomfortable. Second, it can be demeaning comments about another person's sex that are belittling, disrespectful and hurtful. What many people may not realize is that one person's decision to make a disrespectful comment can affect more than just the victim. Others may also feel uncomfortable witnessing the harassment, the perpetrator may compromise his or her job and even the company itself can take a hit to its reputation depending on the severity of the situation and how they choose to handle it. 

Examining the rights of minimum wage earners

A common misconception held by many in Kansas City is that state and federal wage and hour laws only apply to people at a certain level of employment. Those in entry level positions only making a minimum wage may feel like they have no legal recourse if they are not being compensated fairly. This assumption may be due in large part to the opinion that some may have that the work such employees do requires little skills, making them easily replaceable. Yet in reality, those making minimum wage have the right to expect that they be paid what the law mandates, and that the fear of being fired should not be a tool employers use to exploit them. 

A standard minimum wage was first set in Missouri in 2007. That initial wage was $6.50. State statutes mandated that it be raised on January 1 of each year to account for annual increases in the cost of living (which is to be determined by the state's Department of Labor). According to the Missouri DOL, the state's minimum wage currently sits at $7.85. Every employer operating in the state is expected to follow that standard. The only exceptions are retailers or service providers whose annual gross income is less than $500,000. 

How to recognize and fight age discrimination

The American workforce includes all kinds of diverse individuals who lend their varied expertise to many fields. Older members of the workforce bring not only experience, but also hands-on knowledge from extensive time in a career field. While these are valued employees across industries, some employers continue to either ignore or actively work against the success of older employees despite state and federal legal protections.

Missouri law prohibits discrimination based on age, as does federal legislation in place for decades. Members of the workforce who suspect mistreatment due to their age should know that they have legal and employment recourse options to seek justice from this form of discrimination.

Can enforcing a dress code be sexual harassment?

Most employers in Kansas City may attempt to establish a baseline standard when it comes to workplace expectations. Included in those expectations may be a dress code. While not everyone may be happy with a company's dress code, company representatives are entitled to enforce it. Could there be situations, however, where the enforcement of a company dress code constitutes sexual harassment

The answer to that question typically depends on the context of the situation. Dress codes are typically allowed in order to identify employees, establish a brand identity, or to create a more organized (and professional) office environment. If, however, the intent of a dress code strays from those distinct purposes, problems may arise. 

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