Law Office Albert F Kuhl *Discrimination *Harassment *Wrongful Termination *Retaliation Kansas City Employment Attorney Racial, National Origin or Ethnic Discrimination in Workplace
Al Khuhl
Albert F. Kuhl

Employment Guide

Basics of Employment Law:
A basic premise of employment law is an employee is generally viewed by the law as serving in an �at-will� context...

Discrimination:
An employer normally may not mistreat an employee for a discriminatory reason. This rule applies to harassment, demotions, wage decreases, layoff selections, and job terminations...

Retaliation:
An employer generally must avoid retaliating against an employee who has said or done something at work which is �legally protected activity.�...

The Law Offices of Albert F. Kuhl

Welcome to KCEmploymentAttorney.com

Are you seeking information about your legal rights in the workplace?  This website provides information on a broad range of employment law topics.  Have you suffered unwelcome HARASSMENT, DISCRIMINATION, RETALIATION or other MISTREATMENT while on the job?  Information appearing below may assist you in considering your options.  Additionally, our law offices provide representation to victims of mistreatment at work.

This website
provides information about the legal rights of workers/employees in Kansas City, as well as throughout the states of Kansas and Missouri. Additionally, information provided here may also prove useful to readers throughout the United States, whom we may also represent in appropriate cases.  This website is authored and sponsored by The Law Offices of Albert F. Kuhl. Mr. Kuhl is a Kansas City employment lawyer, whose firm practices employment and job discrimination law in greater Kansas City, and also throughout the states of Kansas and Missouri. Mr. Kuhl further handles cases throughout the United States.  If you need information about your rights in this area of the law, please read further. Additional assistance may be obtained by contacting The Law Offices of Albert F. Kuhl.

 

As a Kansas City discrimination lawyer, and an employment lawyer generally, Kuhl law offices serve the needs of individuals in both Kansas and Missouri, and throughout the United States. Kansas City employment lawyers such as Mr. Kuhl must be aware of trends and case decisions in both Kansas and Missouri, as well as the two different federal jurisdictions which may apply to one's situation in either state. This site offers a generalized approach to area employment law. For more comprehensive information about employment law, visit www.Kuhllaw.com.  For representation, contact The Law Offices of Albert F. Kuhl online at office.kuhllaw@gmail.com, or via telephone toll-free at 877.506.7111, or in the Kansas City area at 913.438.2760.   Our law office handles cases involving all aspects of employment law.

 

The discussion immediately below highlights the aspects of employment law which affect both (i) Kansas employees; and (ii) Missouri employees.  Each state has differing legal concepts and related legal remedies available to employees.  Our law office is able to assist individuals in states other than Kansas or Missouri as well.  Contact us for further information in this regard.

 

 

 

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For KANSAS Employees:

 

Employees who perform work in the state of Kansas are covered by a variety of employment laws. Several of these laws differ markedly from laws in Missouri, for example. Discussed below are key Kansas employment laws which may apply to any employee working in Kansas.

Discrimination in the workplace:

All federal laws discussed elsewhere in this website apply to Kansas employees. Discrimination based upon sex, race, national origin, disability and religion is prohibited for employers with as few as four employees under Kansas law. For Federal discrimination laws to apply, the Kansas employer must have at least 15 employees.

Remedies for discrimination under Kansas law are limited. One may only collect damages for actual financial loss, together with damages for emotional distress, inconvenience, humiliation, etc. in a total separate amount of no more than $2,000. This damages limitation is far more restrictive in its scope than federal discrimination law remedies. Therefore, if one's employer in Kansas has 15 or more employees, it is generally always preferable to make your discrimination claim under federal law. This federal process involves filing what is termd a "Charge of Discrimination" with the regional office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC"). The EEOC has a regional office in Kansas City, Kansas which covers the entire state of Kansas (and also western Missouri).

Contracts in the workplace:

Kansas employees may also seek a remedy in the courts of Kansas when their employer makes promises to them which it does not keep, resulting in a broken employment relationship. A common example in Kansas arises from written commitments made by the employer, such as in an Employee Handbook.  If a Kansas employer disregards its own written promises in the way it disciplines or discharges an employee, it may be held liable for breach of "implied contract" under this Kansas law.   This rule also may exist in cases where the employer promotes an internal 'Appeal' process in which it promises a fairness-type standard of review.

An example of this concept from one of our recent cases is as follows. The employer's Employee Handbook made 'horseplay' a category of misconduct for which the employee would receive a warning if he/she violated the rule and engaged in horseplay. Two such incidents would lead to a suspension, and a third to termination of employment. Our client was instead discharged for an act of horseplay. The Court upheld our claim, and a recovery was made for the client on this legal theory.

Few Kansas workers will possess an actual, formal written contract of employment. In such a case, however, the contract document is generally binding, unless a term is found 'unreasonable.' Common examples of that situation arise from "Noncompete agreements." These forms of employment agreements must contain restrictions which a court finds are reasonable in scope, both as to time limitations and geographic restrictions. For example, a 5-year non-competition provision might well be found too extreme, and thus unenforceable. A generally accepted restriction on competition is two years or less.

Unlike the discrimination claim above, there is no need to file an initial administrative complaint with state or federal agencies before filing suit.

Retaliation in the workplace:

In Kansas, employees are protected from retribution by their employer for things such as the following: (a) Filing a worker's compensation claim, or even simply missing work due to a work injury; (b) Supporting a fellow employee's worker's compensation claim, or unemployment claim; (c) Notifying a public agency of company wrongdoing; (d) Refusing to engage in unlawful conduct when requested by company management.

If a Kansas employee is retaliated against in this manner, by being fired or demoted, the employee may immediately bring a lawsuit in the Kansas courts. One may recover actual financial damages, as well as "compensatory damages" for emotional distress, inconvenience, humiliation and the like. Punitive damages may also be available.

Once again, unlike the discrimination claim above, there is no need to file an initial administrative complaint with state or federal agencies before filing suit.

Strategies for the Kansas Employee:

When in doubt, our advice is always the same to a frustrated employee: MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD. Many legal remedies are only available to the employee who first notifies his or her employer of their tangible legal concerns. Many employers will respond favorably to the expression of concern.

Barring the recognition of one's rights, seek legal counsel. This step may be accomplished by and through the relevant federal or state agency, and through retention of private legal counsel. The most effective results are obtained by vigilant employees who seek the earliest possible recognition of their legal rights in the workplace.

 

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For MISSOURI Employees:

 

Employees who perform work in the state of Missouri are covered by a variety of statutory and judicially-crafted employment laws. And, in fact, remedies allowed under Missouri non-discrimination statutes actually exceed the remedies allowed by federal law. Discussed below are key Missouri employment laws which may apply to any employee working in Missouri.

Discrimination in the workplace:

All federal laws discussed elsewhere in this website apply to Missouri employees. Discrimination based upon sex, race, national origin, disability and religion is prohibited for employers with as few as six employees under Missouri law. For Federal discrimination laws to apply, the Missouri employer must have at least 15 employees.

Remedies for discrimination under Missouri law are more generous than those under federal law. Therefore, it is generally preferred to initiate a claim of unlawful workplace discrimination in Missouri with the state agency handling these claims, the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. This process involves proceeding with a Charge of Discrimination to the agency, which has regional offices in Kansas City, Missouri and elsewhere throughout the state.

Contracts in the workplace:

Unlike the law in Kansas, Missouri law does not give employees the right to challenge their employer for failing to abide by its own written policies. There is no "implied breach of contract" legal claim available to Missouri employees.

Few Missouri workers will possess an actual, formal written contract of employment. In such a case, though, the document is generally binding, unless a term is found 'unreasonable.' Common examples of that situation arise from "Noncompete agreements." These forms of employment agreements must contain restrictions which a court finds are reasonable in scope, both as to time limitations and geographic restrictions. For example, a 5-year non-competition provision might well be found too extreme, and thus unenforceable. A generally accepted restriction on competition is two years or less.

Unlike the discrimination claim above, there is no need to file an initial administrative complaint with state or federal agencies before filing suit.

Retaliation in the workplace:

In Missouri, employees are protected from retribution by their employer for things such as the following: (a) Filing a worker's compensation claim, or even simply missing work due to a work injury; (b) Supporting a fellow employee's worker's compensation claim, or unemployment claim; (c) Notifying a public agency of company wrongdoing; (d) Refusing to engage in unlawful conduct when requested by company management.

If a Missouri employee is retaliated against in this manner, by being fired or demoted, the employee may immediately bring a lawsuit in the Missouri courts. One may recover actual financial damages, as well as "compensatory damages" for emotional distress, inconvenience, humiliation and the like. Punitive damages may also be available.

Once again, unlike the discrimination claim above, there is no need to file an initial administrative complaint with state or federal agencies before filing suit.

Strategies for the Missouri Employee:

When in doubt, our advice is always the same to a frustrated employee: MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD. Many legal remedies are only available to the employee who first notifies his or her employer of their tangible legal concerns. Many employers will respond favorably to the expression of concern.

Barring the recognition of one's rights, seek legal counsel. This step may be accomplished by and through the relevant federal or state agency, and through retention of private legal counsel. The most effective results are obtained by vigilant employees who seek the earliest possible recognition of their legal rights in the workplace.

Wrongful Termination and Unlawful Workplace Treatment

"Wrongful Termination" is a term that generally refers to a person being fired when they shouldn't have been. When making a legal determination as to whether an employment termination is "wrongful," an employment lawyer must carefully assess the circumstances surrounding the termination decision. It is also possible to be treated unlawfully in the workplace without being fired. Such mistreatment may include unwelcome harassment, retaliation, and/or a denial of legal rights by the employer. All are discussed below.

At Will Employment

In Kansas and Missouri and most other states, employment is "at will". This means that, generally speaking, the employer can fire the employee for no reason or any reason.

There are two exceptions to this general rule:

  • Discrimination/Retaliation
    Employers cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of age, race, sex, national origin, disability, and a variety of other similar reasons. Discrimination may occur during the course of one's employment (i.e. anytime prior to termination) or at the time of discharge from employment. Employers cannot retaliate against an employee because he or she has "whistle blown" - which is reporting illegal activity of the employer. This can include complaining of discrimination - a separate act which is protected by the discrimination laws. Employers also cannot retaliate against an employee for engaging in other protected activities, such as filing workers' compensation claims. If an employer fires an employee because of one of these factors, that action is against the law, and the employee can sue.

  • Contract
    If any employee has a contract with the employer, the employee probably cannot be fired without just cause. Contracts can be written or implied. A common way for an employee to have a written contract is to be in a union. In Kansas, the courts recognize implied contract rights of non-Union employees more readily than do Missouri courts.

Layoffs

Layoffs, also known as "Downsizings" and/or "Restructurings," are covered by federal and state law, just as are many other employment decisions by companies. The issue in these cases is normally simple: was the company motivated by an illegal reason when it selected the person(s) for layoff? If this fact can be proven, the layoff decision is illegal. A laid-off employee is not required to prove that the underlying decision to downsize was somehow discriminatory in itself. Proving discrimination is somewhat more complicated in these cases, though, because courts recognize the general right of an employer to reduce its workforce in lean economic times. That said, courts require employers to downsize without discriminating.

Harassment in the Workplace

Unlawful harassment in the workplace is one of the most complicated areas of employment law. It is also one of the areas that has recently received the most media attention.

Below is a basic guide to harassment in the workplace. Harassment in the workplace often goes hand-in-hand with other illegal acts, like gender discrimination.

Two Types of Harassment in the Workplace:

There are two unlawful types of harassment in the workplace: (1) "Hostile Environment" and (2) "Quid-pro-quo."

I. Hostile Environment Harassment

Hostile environment sexual harassment arises from situations where the employer, supervisor, or co-worker does or says things that make the victim feel uncomfortable because of his or her sex. Hostile environment sexual harassment in the workplace does not need to include a demand for an exchange of sex for a job benefit. Instead, is stems from the existence of a sexually "uncomfortable environment".

Offensive Conduct

The conduct must be "offensive". If two employees have a good time exchanging sexual jokes, it would not be sexual harassment in the workplace. If one employee kept telling another employee sexual jokes that the second employee found offensive, it "would". be sexual harassment in the workplace. If two employees dated and engaged in consensual sex, this would not be sexual harassment in the workplace. If one of the two then wanted to terminate the relationship, and the other used the unequal relative terms and conditions of employment of the work place to further the relationship, this would be sexual harassment in the workplace.

Jokes, pictures, touching, leering, unwanted requests for a date have all been found by courts to be sexual harassment. Sexual harassment in the workplace can be between people of the same sex. Sexual harassment in the workplace can also be a woman harassing a man.

Discrimination & Harassment

The courts have also held that if you are harassed in the work place about your race, ethnicity, or national origin you may have the right to sue your employer. Discrimination and harassment are tandem concepts. Where there is harassment in the workplace, there is often also illegal discrimination in the workplace.

Did you know that claims of illegal employment discrimination or harassment must be raised within very short time frames?

Many persons are unaware of this fact. Laws protecting individuals from workplace mistreatment are notoriously stingy regarding their 'statutes of limitations.' In other words, someone with a claim of unlawful discrimination at work must act quite rapidly - within six months in many cases - to make their legal complaint. Normally, a claim of workplace discrimination or harassment must first be made to a state or federal agency, and not to the Court. The discrimination laws created by Congress require this procedure. This process allows claims to be considered by a governmental agency before a Court hears the case. Call our law office at (913)-438-2760 for more information.

Severe & Pervasive Harassment & Discrimination

To be unlawful, the harassment in the workplace must be severe and pervasive. An idle comment, even if, offensive is not the basis for a lawsuit. Ongoing use of the "N" word could be severe and pervasive. Having derogatory words and racial or ethnic slurs written on the bathroom walls could be severe and pervasive. Each factual situation is reviewed on a case by case basis.

Management Awareness

Next the conduct must be carried on by management or management must know about it and have had an opportunity to stop it and in fact, do not. In other words, management condones the behavior.

Report The Behavior

If a fellow worker is the one doing the discrimination and harassment, you should follow the company policy and report the conduct to your supervisor and Human Resources. Report it in writing (and keep a dated copy of your complaint) to have proof of the date you reported it. In the complaint, be specific about the exact nature of the discrimination or harassment. General statements such as "John is bothering me" are not sufficient.

Who Can Sue?

Anyone who is offended by a discriminatory or sexually harassing hostile environment may theoretically sue. However, that employee's feelings of mistreatment must be reasonable. In this respect, an extremely sensitive person might not be able to maintain a claim, if his or her feelings about suffering harassment were not reasonable.

II. Quid-Pro-Quo Harassment

"Quid-pro-quo" is Latin for "this for that." It is a trade. When the trade is on the basis of sex (or any other protected category of discrimination), it is illegal.

For example, this form of unlawful harassment arises when the employer makes sex a prerequisite to getting something in the workplace. As an example, consider this demand: "Sleep with me and you'll get the job." That's illegal. This type of sexual harassment in the workplace is the "casting couch" clich�.

"Quid-pro-quo" can also include negatives. For example, "sleep with me or you're fired" is also illegal.

Who can sue?

Obviously, the woman who is fired because she wouldn't sleep with the boss can sue. But so can a woman who the boss didn't even want to sleep with. Take for example a situation where the boss asks one of his assistants to sleep with him in exchange for a promotion. She does it and gets the promotion. Under the law, she has a claim, because her agreeing to his sexual demands was a condition of the promotion. She also has a claim if she refused and didn't get the promotion.

On the other hand, if she was just having an affair with him because she wanted to, there is no claim.

Consent & Offensive Conduct

What about the person who accepts the offer of advancement in exchange for sex. Can she sue? She can certainly sue - she either deserved the promotion or didn't deserve it; she shouldn't have been put in the position of considering whether or not to sell her body to get it. The problem is the idea of "consent."

If two employees dated and engaged in consensual sex, this would not be sexual harassment. If one of the two then wanted to terminate the relationship, and the other used the unequal relative terms and conditions of employment of the work place to further the relationship, this would be sexual harassment in the workplace.

Jokes, pictures, touching, leering, unwanted requests for a date have all been found by courts to be sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment in the workplace can be between people of the same sex. As well, sexual harassment in the workplace can be a woman harassing a man.

Damages for Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace can recover for their lost wages, future lost wages, compensatory damages including inconvenience and emotional distress, punitive damages, and attorneys fees.

Retaliation in the Workplace

Many forms of retaliation in the workplace are against the law. Several common forms of unlawful retaliation at work are the following:

Retaliation Due to Complaining of Discrimination: If you feel discriminated against by your employer, you have a legal right to report that belief to company management, the appropriate state and federal agencies, and the courts - without retaliation occurring. In other words, reporting discrimination is itself a protected act under the law.

Retaliation Due to Requesting Recognition of One's Legal Rights: Unlawful retaliation can also arise from an employee asking the employer for reasonable accommodation due to a disabling physical or emotional condition, a pregnancy, and/or a religious preference. If something bad happens to you in response to a request for accommodation, this result may itself be unlawful retaliation.

Retaliation Due to Filing a Worker's Compensation Claim, or being absent from work due to a work-related injury: This is another form of unlawful workplace retaliation. In Kansas, such forms of retaliation are governed by judge-made law, in other words, "common law." In Missouri, this type of retaliation is unlawful under the workers' compensation statutes. However, mistreatment of this type in either state is equally illegal.

Retaliation for Dealing with Illegal Conduct of Others: For similar reasons, under state law the act of informing management of illegal behavior by co-workers is an act protected from later retaliation. Informing a public agency of your employer's illegal conduct is protected, as is refusing an employer's request to take part in illegal conduct. Types of illegal conduct which are included in this category are misleading/defrauding customers, suppliers or government entities; theft of property; or violation of public health/safety laws.

For the two general types of unlawful retaliation listed immediately above, no requirement of an initial agency filing exists under the law; one may proceed without interruption to pursue a court case over the unlawful retaliation.



Need Further Assistance?

To preserve properly one's legal rights concerning discrimination or retaliation arising from a discrimination complaint in the workplace, a victim must initially seek enforcement of his/her rights through the appropriate state or federal agencies before filing a lawsuit. These agencies are: Kansas Human Rights Commission (Kansas workers), Missouri Human Rights Commission (Missouri workers), or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (any worker whose employer has more than 15 employees).

A Kansas City employment lawyer, Albert F. Kuhl and his staff serve the needs of employees in both Kansas and Missouri, and more generally throughout the entire United States.  Employment lawyers such as Mr. Kuhl must be aware of case decisions in both Kansas and Missouri, as well as the two different federal jurisdictions which apply to either state. This website offers a generalized approach to the law in this area. For more specific information, visit www.Kuhllaw.com, or contact The Law Offices of Albert F. Kuhl online at Office.Kuhllaw@gmail.com, or call the firm toll-free at 877.506.7111, or in the Kansas City area at 913-438-2760.





This website provides guidance and information to both non-lawyers and lawyers. It is maintained by the Law Offices of Albert F. Kuhl - Kansas City Discrimination Attorney. The web site contains information on many areas of employment law, including job discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment, age, race, gender, pregnancy, and disability discrimination, breach of contract, wrongful termination, whistle-blowing, and more. We hope the site provides the reader with useful information, and addresses your questions.

KCEmploymentAttorney.com is a public-resource web-site. It was created to provide information on a complex part of the law that affects individuals and companies alike.

KCEmploymentAttorney.com is maintained by the Law Offices of Albert F. Kuhl, a law firm in Lenexa, KS. The firm practices primarily in the area of employment law. Click here for more information about employment discrimination or sexual discrimination in Kansas and Missouri.  See also, www.kcjoblawyer.com for additional information.

None of the materials presented on this web-site or over its affiliated e-mail addresses may or should be considered legal advice. The information provided is for informational purposes only. No information provided by this web-site, and no communications made over its affiliated e-mail addresses, may be considered to have created an attorney-client relationship. The materials presented on this web-site provide summaries only of the law in this area.

IF YOU ARE A KANSAS (including Johnson County and Sedgwick, Douglas and Shawnee Counties, including the cities of Kansas City, Kansas, Overland Park, Olathe, Wichita, Topeka, Lawrence, Salina, Manhattan and Emporia) or MISSOURI RESIDENT (including these cities: St. Joseph, Springfield, Columbia, Jefferson City, Joplin, Warrensburg, Blue Springs, Lee's Summit and Raytown) YOU QUALIFY FOR A THOROUGH EVALUATION OF A POTENTIAL CASE. DO NOT RELY ON THIS WEB SITE. CONTACT THE LAW OFFICES OF ALBERT F. KUHL.
EMPLOYMENT LAW VARIES FROM STATE TO STATE. AS A LAW FIRM WE CAN ONLY ANSWER QUESTIONS FOR KANSAS OR MISSOURI RESIDENTS, ADDRESSING EMPLOYMENT ISSUES IN REGARD TO FEDERAL AND KANSAS/MISSOURI STATE LAW.

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