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What Is an “At Will” Employment State? Are Missouri and Kansas At-Will Employment States?

Employment Law / January 2, 2022

In the US, almost every state considers employment to be “at-will” unless the employee and employer have entered into an employment contract requiring “cause” for termination or some other exception applies. “At-will” means the employee and employer can both terminate the employment relationship at any time (with or without notice) and for any legal reason (or no reason). Missouri and Kansas are both at-will employment states, but they have several exceptions to at-will employment.

Hollis Law Firm has the experience needed to help clients understand whether or not they were wrongfully terminated in their state. As an employee, it is crucial to understand how living in an “at-will” employment state may affect you if you are terminated.

Exceptions to At-Will Employment in Missouri and Kansas

An employment contract between employee and employer can create an exception to at-will employment if the contract dictates that the employment relationship shall continue for a specified period of time unless certain conditions are met.  For example, an employment contract might say the employee cannot quit without giving “notice” or paying a penalty, and/or the employer cannot fire the employee without “cause” or paying a penalty. Similarly, union contracts often create exceptions to at-will employment by placing limitations on the employer’s ability to terminate employees.

Most states, including Missouri and Kansas, also have “public policy” exceptions to at-will employment. For example, it is often against public policy for an employer to terminate an employee for exercising workers’ compensation rights, performing jury duty, refusing to take part in illegal activity, or reporting illegal activity (whistleblowing). Termination in violation of public policy is commonly called “wrongful termination.”

Anti-discrimination laws, at both the state and federal level, also create exceptions to at-will employment. While an employer can fire an at-will employee for any legal reason, it cannot fire an employee for an illegal reason. Terminating an employment relationship because of the employee’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including pregnancy, gender, and sexual orientation), age, or disability is illegal. Likewise, terminating an employee for reporting discrimination or participating in a discrimination investigation is also illegal.

Can You Collect Damages after a Wrongful Termination?

While Missouri and Kansas are both at-will employment states, if you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated for a discriminatory reason or for a reason otherwise violating public policy, you may be able to make a wrongful termination claim. If you prove your wrongful termination claim, you may be eligible to collect damages such as the following:

Economic Damages

This damage includes expenses concerning lost wages which are broken into back pay and front pay.

Compensatory Damages

This is meant to compensate employees for any losses they may have suffered as a result of being wrongfully terminated. An example of a loss that someone may collect compensation for may include medical expenses, costs associated with finding new employment, and any emotional distress they may have suffered.

If you are unsure of what damages you may be eligible to receive, contact an employment lawyer who may be able to help by going over the details of your claim.

Work with a Kansas City Employment Attorney to Protect Your Job

If you feel that you’ve been discriminated against or unfairly terminated from your position, contact Hollis Law Firm today. Our lawyers have the experience to help you fight for your case and help you get the compensation and outcome you deserve. Call us today at (800) 701-3672 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free consultation.