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Information for Kansas Employees

For Kansas Employees

Employees who perform work in the state of Kansas are covered by a variety of statutory and judicially-crafted 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 than federal discrimination law remedies. Therefore, if one's employer in Kansas has 15 or more employees, it is generally always preferable to make one's discrimination claim under federal law. This process involves proceeding with a Charge of Discrimination to the federal 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.

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, or Employee Manual. 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.

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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