ST. LOUIS EMPLOYMENT LAW PRACTICE IN
MISSOURI & ILLINOIS
Employment law is a broad area encompassing all areas of the employer/employee relationship except the negotiation process covered by labor law and collective bargaining. Employment law is governed by thousands of federal and state statutes, administrative regulations, and judicial decisions. Our firm represents employees in claims involving employment discrimination, retaliation, whistle blowing, wrongful termination, sexual and other forms of harassment, compensation and equal pay and reasonable accommodation issues.
Specifically, our firm represents clients in the following areas:
Employees have the right to work in a non-discriminatory workplace. Federal and state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, sex, gender, pregnancy, or status as a veteran. It is against the law for employers to consider any of these characteristics in their employment decisions such as those involving hiring, firing, compensation, job assignments, promotions, demotions, discipline or any other term or condition of employment.
Employers are also prohibited from discriminating against an employee because the employee is associated with a person with one of these characteristics. For example, an employer may not terminate an employee because they have a family member with a disability who may increase the employer’s health insurance premiums.
If you have experienced one of these problems, contact the Kennedy Hunt, P.C. for an evaluation of your claim.
Sexual and Other Harassment
Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that is prohibited by state and federal law. Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, sex, or gender. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, opposing discriminatory employment practices, or participating in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit against the employer.
Minor slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents will not generally rise to a level of unlawful harassment. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people. Offensive conduct may include inappropriate jokes, slurs or epithets, physical assaults or threats, offensive objects or pictures, false accusations of mistakes and errors, intimidation, exclusion, withholding resources and information necessary to do the job, sabotage, use of insults, excessively harsh criticism, and unreasonably heavy work demands designed to ensure failure.
Harassment can take the form of sexual harassment. This form of harassment occurs to male and female employees alike. Sexual harassment may include unwanted touching, sexually suggestive comments or jokes, requests for sexual favors, verbal abuse or threats, stalking, and acts of physical or even sexual assault.
If you have been subjected to sexual harassment or forced to work in a hostile environment because of your race, color, national origin, religion, age, or disability, contact the Kennedy Hunt, P.C..
Family Medical Leave
In certain situations, employees are legally permitted to take an unpaid leave of absence from work. Specifically, certain employers are required to give employees unpaid time off because of the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition, because of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his or her job, or because of the foreign military deployment of an employee’s spouse, child, or parent. Employers cannot fire you or otherwise retaliate against you for asking for this time off or for taking it.
Contact the Kennedy Hunt, P.C. if you have been denied time off, or if you are being threatened with demotion, pay loss or termination because you used or requested time off for any of the reasons described above.
Retaliation is when an employer unlawfully punishes an employee for engaging in a legally protected activity. Legally protected activities can be reporting discrimination, wage theft or some other violation of rights, opposing discriminatory practices of the employer, or participating in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit against the employer. An employer cannot fire, demote, discipline, or take any other adverse employment action against an employee for engaging in one of these activities.
Whistleblowers are also protected by both state and federal law. This means employers are prohibited from firing an employee because he or she refuses to perform illegal conduct, reports illegal conduct to a supervisor or manager, or reports illegal conduct to an outside agency. An employee who reports what he or she reasonably believes to be illegal conduct is protected from wrongful termination even if it turns out the employer’s conduct is not in fact illegal. Similarly, an employee who refuses to perform what he or she reasonably believes to be an illegal activity is also protected from wrongful termination even if the conduct is not actually illegal.
If you believe you were terminated for blowing the whistle on your employer or believe you were retaliated against for engaging in a legally protected activity, contact the Kennedy Hunt, P.C. for an evaluation of your claim.
It is illegal for an employer to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform the same or similar work, even if the job title is different. Compensation discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, age, or disability is also illegal. The laws against compensation discrimination cover all forms of compensation including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, travel reimbursements, and other benefits.
The Kennedy Hunt, P.C. can help you if you have experienced compensation discrimination. Please contact us for an evaluation of your claim.
Wage and Hour Claims
The law requires most employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage as well as overtime pay at time-and-a-half of an employee’s regular rate of pay for work over 40 hours a week. There are certain complex exceptions to this general rule, and the Kennedy Hunt, P.C. specializes in helping individuals determine whether they are covered under federal or state wage and hour laws.
Wage and hour law is very complicated, and it is not uncommon for employers to fail to pay employees all wages due, either intentionally or out of ignorance. For instance, some employers mistakenly believe they can avoid paying the minimum wage or overtime pay by paying an employee a salary or a flat fee rather than by the hour, by misclassifying an employee as “exempt,” by misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor, by “banking” an employee’s time worked in one pay period and applying it to another, by falsifying time records or paychecks, or by forcing the employee to work “off-the-clock.” Likewise, many employees mistakenly believe they are not entitled to overtime compensation if they do not get overtime “pre-approved” by their employer or if they do not complain about the employer’s failure to pay overtime wages.
Entitlement to minimum wage and overtime pay is mostly governed by the nature of an employee’s job duties. For instance, an employer may erroneously believe an employee is “exempt” merely because the employee receives a flat salary, while the employee’s job duties actually qualify the employee for minimum wage and overtime pay. Further, if an employee is given a “1099” and labeled as an “independent contractor” but the employer still exercises significant control over the employee’s work, the employer may have deprived the employee from legally mandated minimum wage and overtime pay.
Employers must pay for all work performed by their employees including any work performed “off-the-clock.” “Off-the-clock” work may include tasks performed before clocking in or after clocking out such as preparation and clean up, dressing in required clothing or safety gear, and traveling between work sites. Such work may also include “on call” time and time spent attending work meetings or trainings.
It is also illegal for employers to require employees to work during breaks or meal periods without pay. If an employee works through the break, the employer may be required to pay the employee for some or all of the break period. Further, an employer cannot dock an employee’s pay for short rest breaks even if the employee performed no work during the short break. An employer is only allowed to deduct breaks or meal periods lasting 30 minutes or longer from an employee’s pay so long as the employee is fully relieved from their work duties during the entire break period.
Employees seeking unpaid wages may file suit as individuals or as part of a class or collective action. In addition to recovery of unpaid wages, an employee who successfully files suit for unpaid wages may be able to recover double the amount of the total unpaid wages in liquidated damages. Our firm is experienced in filing cases on behalf of individuals and classes of individuals who wish to recover their unpaid wages.
If you believe your minimum wage or overtime compensation rights have been violated, call the Kennedy Hunt, P.C. so we can evaluate your claim.
Non-Compete and Employment Agreements
Often times, employers require their employees to sign a non-compete, non-solicitation or confidentiality agreement so that employees cannot use the knowledge they gained during employment in subsequent business endeavors. Employers sometimes attempt to unfairly enforce these agreements so that you cannot earn a living after your employment relationship ends. Whether a non-compete agreement is enforceable is the source of many employment law disputes.
If you require assistance in understanding or interpreting the terms of your employment agreement or if you need assistance in a lawsuit filed by your employer seeking to enforce your employment agreement, contact the Kennedy Hunt, P.C..
Learn more about our non-compete and employment agreements law practice or submit a case questionnaire.
Breach of Employment Contract
In some cases, an employer enters into a written contract with an employee and then breaches the agreement. Many employment contracts contain specific durations of employment or indicate that the employee may only be terminated for good cause. Breach of contract claims often result when an employer fires an employee prior to the end of the contract’s duration or without giving good cause for the termination. In such cases, the employee may be entitled to compensation for the amount of time remaining on the contract.
The Kennedy Hunt, P.C. is available to review employment contracts and provide advice regarding possible breach of contract claims.
When an employee is laid off or fired, some employers may offer severance to the terminated employee. In order to receive the severance payment in most situations, the employer requires the terminated employee to sign a release, a document giving up any claims the employee has against the employer.
If you need legal assistance to help you understand your severance agreement or to help you negotiate the terms of your severance agreement, contact the Kennedy Hunt, P.C.. Our attorneys can guide you through the severance negotiation process.