Various employment laws allow recently terminated employees to sue for wrongful termination. However, wrongful termination law in St. Louis is much more narrow than most people believe it to be. This is because of the long-standing principle of employment law known as at-will employment. Despite St. Louis adhering to an at-will employment principle, there are many types and causes of termination that are actually considered “wrongful” or “illegal” and may form the basis of a wrongful discharge lawsuit.
In general, the first thing that anyone who has been recently terminated should do is contact an experienced St. Louis employment law attorney. An employment lawyer can help you evaluate the merits of any potential legal claim and assist in filing. Due to the complex nature of wrongful termination filings in Missouri, represented parties are statistically more successful in filing claims than unrepresented parties. Hiring the right lawyer can help protect your right to recover damages in court.
The Nature of At-Will Employment and Wrongful Termination Laws
At-will employment has been the basic rule of employment in the United States for at least two centuries. In general, at-will employment means that an employer can fire any employee at any time for any reason, and an employee may quit at any time for any reason. While at-will employment may seem like a Wild-West style anything goes rule, that was the intention. Rather than force employers to keep employees they do not want or need or force employees to work for oppressive employers, the employment market is designed to be flexible.
That said, however, at-will employment is notably a harsh principle, and many different laws and circumstances will supersede at-will employment principles. For example, employment contracts and union collective bargaining agreements will often alter the at-will relationship. Similarly, various laws have been enacted to protect employees from various types of wrongful termination.
Categories of Wrongful Termination Claims
The most common types of wrongful termination claims are employment discrimination claims. Both federal law and the Missouri Human Rights Act both prevent discrimination in the workplace. Employees cannot be fired merely due to an employer’s discriminatory animus against employees who are members of certain protected classifications (race, gender, etc.). Additionally, employment discrimination laws also protect employees who blow the whistle on their employer’s discriminatory acts.
Missouri law also protects employees from so-called “termination in violation of public policy.” In general, if an employer asks an employee to do something illegal and the employee refuses, or if the employee blows the whistle on an employee’s illegal activity, that employee cannot be fired. This is because such a firing would be a violation of public policy. Missouri wants to protect employees who act within the confines of the law.
Finally, rules of contract protect certain employees from wrongful termination in violation of either employment contracts or labor agreements. The general rule is that contracts between an employer and either one employee or multiple employees will prevail against at-will employment principles. Therefore, employees who are hired for specific terms or who can only be fired “for cause” cannot be fired by their employers without the employer coming under threat of lawsuit.
Speak to a St. Louis Wrongful Termination Lawyer
If you believe you were wrongfully terminated from your job, the legal team of HKM Employment Attorneys LLP is here to help. Our St. Louis law firm has a depth of knowledge and experience in wrongful discharge claims for wrongful discharge. We take pride in providing effective and aggressive representation for our clients. Contact our St. Louis wrongful discharge law firm today.