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Tim's Missouri Employment Law
By Attorney Tim Willoughby
St. Louis Missouri employment lawyer
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6- Missouri Service Letter 290.140
 
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ARTICLES:

Attorney Tim Willoughby
St. Louis Employment Lawyer

Who I am and how I came to care about employment law

FYI: Some people ask “How do you say Tim’s last name?” when they call. My last name is officially pronounced willow-bee. You wouldn’t believe the variations we get.

For example, how do you get “woolly-bear” out of my spelling? — I have been called that regularly since I was a teenager

Here is how you can best pronounce my name — Tim.

7K photo of Tim Willoughby
Tim Willoughby - April 2002
Photo courtesy of Gene
I look a lot older in 2012

This is a very personal webpage
And very extensive
I have been building it since 2002.

I give you so much info here to show you that I have been there, just like you and then some, and that I know whereof I speak — And I will fight for you as hard as I can.

If you decide to dive in, dive in deep, and read all this stuff about who you might be meeting with. We’ll have a better meeting.

No silk stockings allowed here. I am not a silk stockings type of lawyer, who dresses in expensive suits.

Some of my pictures might show ties and jackets and such, maybe because I had court that day — Ignore those type of pictures.

I might even be wearing blue jeans when you come in, and might have on one of my Cardinals or Rams hats. So let’s just be casual. Ok?

Summary of my Legal Credentials

I am a St. Louis Missouri employment lawyer and a member of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA). Check me out at NELA.org and the Missouri Bar (see the Lawyer Directory).

I graduated in December 1996 from the law school at Washington University in St. Louis, completing the three-year program in about 2 1/2 years, a little less really. I took the Missouri bar exam in February 1997 and became licensed to practice law in Missouri in April 1997.

I have been in private practice, concentrating in employment and contract law, ever since. I joined the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA) right out of law school.

 

photo of Tim Willoughby - 2005
Tim Willoughby - April 2005

 

My non-legal background

I had a career before law school. I understand what it’s like to be unemployed and struggling, because of my experiences growing up and also my experiences as an adult.

Read on for some details of those formative experiences, to understand how it came to be that I might have an interest in Employment Law.

Did not wanna be a marijuana farmer

I am from deep rural Kentucky, and really truly from a dirt-poor background

Mine is the exact background that has sprouted so much of the marijuana-growing industry, and meth industry, in Kentucky. There are areas near where I lived, where there are barricades now, preventing access to old dirt roads, and you just look the other way and don’t stick your nose in, if you know what’s good for you.

It is now kind of like the old days of moonshining during Prohibition — It ain’t none of my business, and I don’t care — There is even a TV show about something like this Kentucky phenomenon, called “Justified”, which is based in rural Kentucky, near where I am talking about, and focuses on the Kentucky drug trade in my area.

For much of my early life and formative years, my family struggled with unemployment and underemployment, and experienced all the problems that commonly flow from unemployment and lack of money (I Won’t list such troubles here, but I certainly Could)

Some will disagree with this, but in my view the lack of money is one of the less serious repercussions of unemployment. The more serious repercussions stem from how people react to the fact that they are unemployed or underemployed.

At various times, my family had next to nothing. Growing up, I spent some years living in houses that lacked running water and plumbing — Think about what that means for day to day living —-We were dirt poor, and had to use outhouses and chamber pots, just like the old timers for thousands of years.

We obviously lived primitively, compared to modern times, and did so for some years actually. During some years, we heated with wood or coal mostly, which means I hauled wood or coal to the house daily, and liked to even play in the coal bin. In other years we moved to heating with oil, or propane.

Drinking bird sh-t
every day
(Bet you ain’t never done that even once)

You have to imagine a tiny old rural community, of about 100 people, built before modern times, where houses were not built with indoor plumbing and water pipes, and where people used outhouses, and all was good regardless, because it seemed normal.

The town had built up around a small riverport, to service Ohio River boats. But then the great flood of 1937 wiped out the riverport, taking all the jobs away. So we were left with a tiny town, and no jobs, and no plumbing. Thanks to the TVA under Roosevelt, we had electricity.

Each house had a small cistern to store water, because our little town did not have a public water supply — There were no public water lines, or sewer lines, whatsoever. That’s how rural we were. (Do you even know what a cistern is? — It’s an underground water tank, usually ceramic, with a large well-type top that sticks out of the ground).

We paid for trucked-in water to fill the cistern. I drew water daily out of the cistern, using a bucket and rope, as with a normal well. We could have had running water, if we could have afforded to have a water pump attached to the cistern, and afforded to have pipes installed. But we did not have the money, so we lacked an indoor toilet and running water.

Our roof drainpipes fed into the cistern to reduce water expense, by collecting rainwater and re-filling the cistern. This was using roof-water, crude and dirty water, that rolled off the roof - waste water, really. This waste water went into our cistern, and we drank it.

God only knows what happened to the bird sh-t from off of the roof, but it probably flowed through the drainpipes, after the rains, and then into the cistern, and then eventually dissolved — Did I drink bird sh-t? It appears that I did (And probably squirrel sh-t, too). Everybody in town ran their drainpipes into their cisterns, so it seemed normal.

Hey — Here’s a challenge for you — Drive around the countryside, and look for drainpipes that seem to be running into wells — You are seeing bird sh–t running into cisterns — Be thankful that you don’t have to drink bird sh–t to survive.

Count your blessings.

It’s ok to laugh at the bird sh-t stuff — It’s weird and funny that people still live that way in modern times.

Living in houses heated by coal or wood, without running water and toilets, is not really much different than living in a rugged primitive cabin while on a vacation — It’s just that the “vacation” doesn’t end — However, I loved to read, and that is a big part of what saved me from a low-tech, perhaps dead-end, life.

Do you know what a partyline was?

As part of primitive living, we had a partyline.

A partyline was a shared, and weird, telephone system where you did not have private lines — You shared a phone line with your neighbors — It was kind of like having public phone lines at work, where anyone can pick up your call, and they can join the conversation — This happens today on office phone systems, but in the past it happened on private phone systems, and we called it “partylines”.

Can you imagine your neighbors sharing your cell-phone?

Here is how partylines worked — The phone would ring with a specific series of tones, kind of like Morse Code, which told you whether the call was for you, or for your neighbor, who shared your line.

For example, our code might have been “two longs and a short” — Everyone else on the partyline would hear the code, and know that the call was Not for them

However, anyone on the partyline could always pick up their phone and listen into any conversation on the partyline at any time.

One more thing — When you wanted to make a call, and your neighbor was already on the phone, then you had to wait for them to get off the phone, to free up the line — There would commonly be arguments where one neighbor says “Get off the phone”, and the other neighbor says, in effect, “Go F yourself”. Partylines were weird things.

Of course it is inconceivable today that such a thing as a partyline could exist — but I guess we were in the end-stage of the growth phase of the telephone system, as more modern technology percolated into the rural areas.

Today, we are in the early growth phase of the internet — Wait till you see what is coming — I myself am working on developing easy interactive video consults, after pioneering telephone consults in 2003.

Reading played a huge role in rescuing me from this fairly primitive existence

I especially read “The New Book of Knowledge”, an encyclopedia (a series of books on many topics) that my sister bought, which I immersed myself in, much like Wikipedia is today. Plus I loved WWII books, and science-related books. I loved history and loved to self-learn. And this happened during my formative years and has had a profound impact on me to this day.

I have become an amateur student of the Holocaust, and one day I hope to take a Holocaust tour of Poland — This is far removed from my roots.

Good jobs in deep-rural Kentucky were hard to come by, as you might imagine. So we struggled a lot. I was not cut out to be a sharecropper, or work on the riverboats as a deckhand, or as is becoming increasingly common in rural Kentucky - marijuana farmer!

Eventually things improved (I will spare you the details). And now, I view my time spent in primitive surroundings as kind of a character building episode. I love technology and modern trappings, but I can make it with much less if I need to, and still be ok with life, because I’ve been there before and it was ok.

 

Casual photo of Tim Willoughby
Tim Willoughby - Oct 2004

 

 

Memorable Navy and Marine Corps Times
And formative experiences related to those times

First I have a sharp commentary to make — It stems from my military service, but is more political diatribe than story-telling (please cut me some slack if you are a Republican). Afterward, I will get back into a gentle telling of my story.

I served this country. And yet I am sort of a damn Progressive Democrat, according to right wingers, which apparently makes me an unpatriotic commie pinko, who hates America, as per that gasbag idiot rich guy Rush Limbaugh, and those jackasses at Fox News, who never served at all.

I don’t like being called unpatriotic by non-servers like Limbaugh or the Fox hosts, just because I am a Democrat, when I was ready to place my life on the line for this country, and they were not (Suck on that, you Limbaugh-Fox freeloaders on the liberty train). I cannot imagine how war hero John Kerry must feel, after their attacks on his patriotism during the 2004 Presidential campaign.

I voted for Ronald Reagan the first time he ran in 1980, when I was in the service. The pressure to vote Republican was intense in the military, from superiors and peers, as was the pressure to become a right-wing fundamentalist Christian, and the pressure to join the NRA. (This should not have been tolerated, and reportedly is still going on today).

That was the first and last time I voted for a Republican.

In 1980, I was too young to yet know of the Republican politicians’ outright hostility to some important personal liberties, liberties that were supported by Democrats. And I saw their fiscal irresponsibility, as evidenced by the explosion of deficits under Republican presidents that benefited their Wall Street-type of donors. Those who become politicians tend to be ideologues, and we do not know the full extent of their commitment to the ideology until they get in office.

BTW Our last balanced budget was under Bill Clinton, a Democrat of course, and Clinton’s appointments to the US Supreme Court supported personal liberties.

I would not have been willing to risk my life for Wall-Street top bosses to make millions while the common man suffered. And I felt duped by Reagan, and his “trickle down” nonsense, and his hostility to personal liberties (except guns and religious issues).

Plus, in about 1983, I read “The Brethren” by Bob Woodward, and I learned important things in that book about the US Supreme Court, and how cases are decided, and how our rights can grow and shrink according to the views of judges, who are appointed by Presidents (and Governors). I merged that info with what I saw in the military, and what I saw from Reagan. Other than some Holocaust memoirs, which profoundly impacted me, “The Brethren” may be the most important book I have ever read, in terms of its influence on me.

I tended to favor stronger individual rights, and Republicans (and their appointed judges) did not, with the exception of gun rights and religious issues.

So I eventually became a Democrat, and a lawyer, and somewhat of an activist for more employee rights.

Republicans stand in the way of being able to get you more employee rights — It is the Republican politicians who are your enemies, as regards your employee rights — They have their reasons, which are worthy of debate, but rest assured that they are not interested in improving your employee rights, and are actively attacking your rights — Right now, all over the country.

The big attacks on your few existing employee rights all come from Republicans.

Growth in your employee rights tends to come from Democrats.

And all of my eye-opening and development may have had its genesis with my military bosses pushing me to vote for Reagan in 1980, and pushing for me to become a fundy Christian, and NRA member.

It is possible that the experiences I just described fully gelled my desire to become a lawyer, although I had some glimmers of such desire earlier in life.

Ok, enough commentary, and now back to our more gentle story

I finished high school in St. Louis in 1977, and joined the Navy right away. I was a Corpsman and spent my last two years assigned to the Marine Corps at Camp LeJuene N.C. You might not realize that “Marine Medics” are actually Navy Corpsmen.

Before the Navy lets a Corpsman doctor any Marines, they make you go to a special school that is almost like a second boot camp, run by Marines.

So I had been in the Navy almost two years, and then had to submit to about a 6 week long second boot camp — We had all the marching, PT, mock combat, weapons training, barracks, forced marches, etc — essentially almost all the trappings of basic training, plus we also had a lot of combat medicine training. It was really almost like a Marine Corps Boot Camp, and we had to meet ALL the Marine Corp PFT standards, which was a big deal.

During Marine Corps training, I carried my buddy for 1.5 miles of our required 3 mile run, after he ran out of gas. But something similar happened to me: When I was in Navy boot camp, two years earlier, my buddies carried me when I ran out of gas — That’s what we do for each other — Semper Fi.

Oops — I grabbed an enemy’s smoke bomb thrown at us during a combat drill, and threw it back at the enemy, not realizing that these things burn at like 1000 degrees or something, and received severe burns in the process — Interesting and memorable times fersure (I served in peacetime, though).

Usually Corpsmen did not carry rifles, just pistols (to protect the patients, in theory). But lack of a rifle suggested to the enemy that you might be a Corpsman or maybe even a high ranking officer - and you became a valuable target!

Here’s a tip we passed around to each other, for what it’s worth: If your enemy does not respect the Geneva Convention, and might fire on a Corpsman doing his job, then a Corpsman might want to consider somehow picking up a rifle to take into battle (or by grabbing a rifle off of a dead soldier), to appear like a regular soldier in the eyes of the enemy. (And yes, our M-16s jammed regularly in those days, even with the so-called “Forward Assist”, just as the Vietnam vets experienced.)

I had a great experience in the Navy, and my duty with the Marine Corps was the Best. I almost stayed in. I was honorably discharged after four years.

Pre-law school wheel spinning

After the Navy, I returned to St. Louis and tried to manage work and school. I had a good paying part time job that I got fired from after I was tardy too many times in a three month period.

Before I got fired, I got the graduated discipline of verbal, written and final warnings. Then I overslept one day, and that was the end. Boy do I regret that day, because the loss of that job played a big role in my choice to drop out of college and abandon my dream of going to law school for some years.

Prior to attending law school, I had a nice career doing auditing for insurance companies. I reviewed the claims and underwriting practices of life and health insurance companies. At times I traveled extensively. I also performed a lot of specialized business analyst functions.

I began programming PC-based business analyst applications in dBase III+ and Lotus123, starting back in about 1985, for myself and others to use within the company. My programming experience helped me when I decided to learn HTML and build this website. Here’s an article describing how I learned HTML coding and the tools I used to build this website.

I was one of those people, like so many I talk to in my practice, who had the good fortune to be given a lot of specialized responsibilities by their employers even though they lacked key credentials.

My best position had been created for me by a CEO who had faith in me. I was not a CPA and did not have an accounting degree, yet I performed important and interesting audit and business analyst functions ordinarily in the domain of accountants.

 

 

formal photo of Tim Willoughby
Tim Willoughby - Aug 2004

 

Turning point

But after my employer went out of business I was reduced to trying to get hired by virtue of my resume, a resume that did not contain any industry-preferred credentials. No one would consider me seriously for anything like the type of position I was accustomed to.

I thrashed around for a while trying to find my footing, as do so many of my clients. I tried the consultant route, and that didn’t work in the long term.

Then I took a job that I got fired from under circumstances that I considered unfair, and so I visited with some employment lawyers about suing, but they didn’t like my potential case.

I suffered from depression. Eventually I reached a turning point.

I realized that I had to make a break with the past and start fresh. I had always deeply regretted abandoning my dream of going to law school.

Then one day in 1993 my 32 year old baby brother (who ended up becoming a Missouri State Representative) Philip Willoughby, announced that he had decided to go to law school. He encouraged me to do likewise before it was too late, rather than continue to live with the regrets. [My brother is out of elected government now, having unsuccessfully run for the Missouri Senate in 2004 (thereby giving up his House seat). The House maintains old membership data, and here is the Rep. Phil Willoughby info page at the Missouri House from his time there.]

Law School

So with the support and encouragement of my family, I did all of the enormous amount of paperwork and study required and took the Law School Admission Test in February 1994.

I applied to 5 law schools, feeling that I had no chance of getting admitted to any of them. I got offered admission to all of them. I will never forget the feelings of dread and then elation I experienced in Spring 1994 when I opened the envelope from the first law school to answer my application and saw that I had been offered admission. Law schools don’t mind admitting older students, because it fosters diversity I guess.

I was 35 years old when I started law school in 1994, and 37 when I completed it.

Practicing Employment Law

Practicing employment law was natural for me, because I can relate so well to the problems that flow from unemployment, and to the feelings of distress suffered by people who become unemployed. I thought I might be able to help people get a little bit of justice who are living through what I have lived through.

My business experience has given me a good foundation for understanding the interpersonal and political dynamics of corporate culture, and this understanding helps me to give what I think to be high quality practical advice to people having problems related to work. My business experience has also helped me in practicing the litigation aspects of employment law, because I have a lot of direct experience working within the corporate hierarchy and I know how they operate and some of the games they play.

If I had a major regret about the practice of law, it would be The Sorry state of the employment protections for residents of Missouri. The court decisions interpreting the existing laws are too often unfavorable to employees, and the laws themselves are not strong enough, and too many laws are missing from the statute books that ought to be there in a modern and just Missouri. I am unable to help most people who need help. Either no law exists that would let me help such people, or the chance of success is relatively low and I cannot afford to take on their cases without charging more fees than they can pay.

If you would like some more information about how the laws are weak and how unfavorable the court decisions are, please read the writings I have placed on this site under the various headings. If you would like to do something about the problem of the lack of adequate legal protections for working Missourians, then write or call your State Representative and Senator and tell them how you feel. Find out the name and address of your Missouri state senator, and Find out the name and address of your Missouri state representative here.

You can bet your last dollar that the Chambers of Commerce and other commercial interests are working hard to make sure that the Legislature does not do anything to improve the employment law protections of Missourians. By way of example, the most recent significant legislative change in employment law in Missouri was a law in 1999, §290.152, to provide businesses with immunity from punitive damages for defamation when they defame someone in a formal letter of reference to a potential new employer.  View RSMo. §290.152.

There was another change in early 2003 that was actually favorable, but it took judges to make that change, not the legislature, and it regarded the availability of jury trials in discrimination cases. I talk about this development in my Sorry State article as a rare Fixed problem. But most of our employment law deficiencies cannot be fixed by judges. We need legislators who care about fair employment practices, regardless of what political party they belong to.

We have backslid in Missouri, though, with the elections of 2004. The complete Republican takeover of Missouri government has made it nearly impossible to see any legislative improvement in the lives of Missouri workers. Under the Republicans, we have seen a huge push to make it harder to get Workers Compensation, and Unemployment, and harder to get justice for personal injuries, among many other worker-unfriendly Republican initiatives. The unemployment insurance and workers compensation systems are supposed to give benefit of the doubt to the claimants, but Missouri Republicans want to change that. I’ve had long experience handling unemployment issues, and the “reforms” that have occurred are absolutely devastating for working people who are in need. The Republicans are not for the people — and I am sorry if you have been sucked into believing that they are.

Thanks for your interest in my site.

If you want some more background about how this website evolved, Here’s my info page explaining something about the goals of this employment law website..

(Thanks to Gene for bringing in his Sony Mavica one day, which wrote to old-style floppy discs that he got for free after rebate.)


***** END OF ARTICLE *****

Tim's Missouri Employment Law
is by Attorney Tim Willoughby

Tim is a St. Louis Missouri employment lawyer and a member of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA). Visit NELA.org and the Missouri Bar Website (see the directory of lawyers).

Tim Willoughby, Attorney
(Licensed in Missouri)
11414 Gravois Rd., Suite 203
St. Louis, MO 63126
ph:    314-729-7750
fax:   314-729-7799

1.6 miles North of I-270 on Gravois.
... Near I-270 and I-44

Google Map of 11414 Gravois Rd, St. Louis MO 63126

directions to my office.


 




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