Missouri recognizes a specific right of employees to not be fired for various public policy reasons. Employees who are fired for certain reasons may have wrongful termination claims when they were fired for violations of public policy. While the grounds for public policy termination are narrow, there are four different reasons that generally constitute wrongful termination in violation of public policy in Missouri.
Due to the very specialized nature of these types of wrongful termination claims, it is generally wise to consult with an experienced employment law attorney before proceeding with filing a lawsuit. Violation of Public Policy claims are highly technical in nature, and only an experienced St. Louis wrongful termination lawyer will have even handled these types of claims in the past.
The Nature of a Claim for Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy in Missouri
The standard rule of employment in Missouri is employment at-will. Under the rules of at-will employment, employers can generally terminate employees for any reason at all, and employees can quit for any reason. These rules are seldom modified; however, the most common exceptions include employment contracts, labor union collective bargaining agreements, and employment discrimination laws.
The cause of action for wrongful termination in violation of public policy arose out of the specific need for protections of certain employees who are doing the right thing when employers were acting either illegally or unethically. While the Supreme Court of Missouri has not explicitly adopted a framework for dealing with this type of wrongful termination claim, lower courts in Missouri have continuously applied these protections. Public policy wrongful termination law was developed to protect employees who are fired because their employer is actively committing a wrong that the public cannot abide.
Types of Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy Claims
Numerous Missouri courts have held that an employer has wrongfully terminated an employee where the employer fires an employee for refusing to break the law or where the employee reports an employer for violating the law. In other words, employers cannot force employees to act illegally, and whistleblowers are protected. Two other types of employee actions are also protected under Missouri’s wrongful termination in violation of public policy doctrine. First, employees cannot be fired for participating in certain functions encouraged by the Missouri legislature such as participating in jury duty or joining a labor union. Second, employees cannot be fired for exercising their rights to apply for workers’ compensation.
Filing a Claim for Wrongful Termination in Violation of Public Policy
These particular claims are classified as tort lawsuits rather than employment lawsuits, which means that claimants must file specifically in Missouri courts rather than going through an employment agency. Knowing which type of claim to file can be tricky because many of the claims are similar in nature. Because of this, it tends to be common for claimants to file under multiple different public policy theories.
Missouri Courts also enforce heightened pleading requirements for public policy termination claims. Normally, a lawsuit must simply state a claim sufficient to place a party on notice of the nature of the lawsuit. However, when filing a lawsuit for termination in violation of public policy, the facts of the lawsuit must be explained in great detail.
Speak to a St. Louis Wrongful Termination Attorney Today
If you suspect you were wrongfully terminated from your job, the legal team of HKM Employment Attorneys LLP is ready to help. We take pride in providing effective and aggressive representation for all of our clients in St. Louis and across Missouri. Contact our St. Louis wrongful termination law firm today.