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Kansas City Missouri Employment Law Blog

Sexual harassment: current training and policies

With the #MeToo movement still fresh on America's mind, many Missouri residents have witnessed a shift in attitudes toward sexual harassment as a whole. Contrary to what the average employee might believe, sexual harassment is a topic that has not gotten the full attention it needs; while the country may be taking steps forward, countless workers face difficult situations. 

Taking this topic a step further, not only do employees continue to struggle with harassment, but some do not even receive proper sexual harassment training. Despite this fact, workers across the nation have looked to their rights to address these emotionally sensitive and challenging incidents. 

Employee criticism leads to lawsuit against Ford

Most in Kansas City might assume race discrimination to be subtle, with those accused of engaging in it looking for backhanded ways to impede the progress of others due to their race or nationality. Yet consistent criticisms of one's struggles may also be viewed as discriminatory in certain situations. Consider one for whom English is his or her second language. A degree of understanding should be afforded knowing that he or she is not a native speaker. He or she may also be expected to allow listeners the chance to politely ask for clarification on things he or she says. It is when politeness is forgotten that discrimination may begin. 

That is what appears to have been case in the treatment of a former engineer with the Ford Motor Company. The man (who hails from Lebanon) had been recognized as a top achiever in the company. Yet a subsequent assignment under the direction of a new supervisor caused his working conditions to deteriorate. The new supervisor reportedly constantly complained about not being to understand what the man was saying because of his accent, to the point of being openly hostile towards him. Another supervisor also began offer his own criticisms of the man's speech. The man complained to the company's human resources department, but was placed on a retaliatory performance plan, with one of the recommendations made by the aforementioned supervisor being that he take English as a Second Language classes. The treatment got so bad that the man eventually took a medical leave due to stress. He was fired shortly thereafter. 

Missouri Senate attempts to reverse part of discrimination law

Whistleblowers will get the protection they deserve after the Missouri Senate unanimously passed a bill that undid a portion of a law enacted last year making it difficult to file a discrimination lawsuit. The House, however, still must review the legislation.

A law implemented last year changed the standard for proving workplace discrimination. The Republican-dominated legislature rallied around the law, citing that it would boost business activity, create more jobs and limit thoughtless lawsuits. The law, however, removed protections for state and local government employees who reported misconduct in the workplace.

Addressing race discrimination in a work environment

While the nation has taken a progressive stance toward many issues over recent years, it still sees an overwhelming number of cases regarding race discrimination. All employees -- no matter the industry -- receive protection from harassment under state law. Nevertheless, countless Missouri employees file complaints. Below are some of the basics when it comes to filing a discrimination complaint, as well as a picture of what race discrimination looks like in America today.

First and foremost, Workplace Fairness defines race discrimination as the different treatment of individuals based solely on their color or race. When it comes to coverage, the organization dovetails from the aforementioned point by noting that Title VII covers the following:

  • All employers
  • Educational institutions (with 15 or more employees)
  • State and local governments
  • Labor organizations
  • Public and private employment agencies

Is your employer violating the Equal Pay Act?

During a conversation with a co-worker of the opposite sex, you discover that he or she is paid significantly more than you to perform the same job function in Kansas City. Further discussions reveal that nearly all of the employees who share his or her gender are in the same situation. Is your lower pay scale simply due to your sex? Are there not laws prohibiting this, and if so, could your company be in violation of them? 

Per the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, federal legislation known as the Equal Pay Act does indeed prohibit companies from compensating employees differently solely based upon gender. The purpose of this law is to ensure that pay is equitable amongst those that work in the same conditions performing functions that require the same skills, efforts and responsibilities. 

Laws regarding tipped employees

Employees in Missouri who receive tips as part of their compensation may think they are entitled to the same hourly wage that other employees are. However, the laws regarding tipped employees are different, and it is a good idea for workers to understand how and what they are getting paid so there is no confusion when they look at their paycheck.

According to the Missouri government, the regular hourly minimum wage in the state is $7.85 and employers are required to pay tipped employees half of this, or $3.925. If the employee does not earn enough in tips to meet the $7.85 an hour, the employer must pay the discrepancy. 

What is retaliation protection?

If you live in Missouri, you have the right to not only fight against discrimination in the workplace, but to also remain secure in your job during and afterwards without facing retaliation for speaking up. Assuming you continue fulfilling your duties as they are outlined in your job description, you are lawfully shielded from being negatively targeted.

According to the Missouri Department of Labor, employees are provided retaliation protection. This protection covers individuals who have filed complaints about workplace discrimination. This can include race discrimination, sex and gender discrimination, disability discrimination and religious discrimination, amongst others. 

How many breaks are you entitled to during your work shift?

Hard-working employees like you deserve to have the best working conditions available, with time to rest during a long day. But do you know what Missouri law officially says about taking breaks while on the job?

Many people assume that small breaks are given to everyone who works. In reality, however, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations states that Missouri law doesn't require a break of any kind to be given to employees. This includes lunch breaks and applies to workers of all ages, including youth workers under the age of 16.

Missouri legislature looks to protect LGBT residents

Timing is everything in politics, and the political climate may be right for Missouri lawmakers to pass legislation protecting the rights of the LGBT community in our state. For the past 20 years, the Missouri legislature has considered similar legislation, but to no avail.

This outcome, however, could change with a recently re-introduced bill known as the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, from state Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City. Razer is one of two openly gay members of the state’s General Assembly. The bill would protect people discriminated against due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Reviewing Missouri's wage garnishment exemption

Like many in Kansas City, you may have periods in your life where you encounter financial struggles. Whether those be due to an unanticipated injury or illness, the loss of a job or an abundance of debt, such issues can make meeting your needs extremely difficult. For many of those that we here at Thornberry Brown, LLC have worked with, that became even more difficult when debtors were allowed to garnish their wages. Less income often contributes to even greater financial struggles, so it is important that you understand when your employer can allow your wages to be garnished, as well as what garnishment limitations you may be entitled to. 

To withhold wages, your employer must first receive a garnishment order. That order is issued by a court only after a creditor has initiated a lawsuit against you. Creditors must obtain a court order before contacting your employer. The only exceptions to this are when you owe any of the following: 

  • Child support
  • Student loan debt
  • Income taxes
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