- Missouri Employment Law Info Site – TimsLaw.com - http://www.timslaw.com -
Employment Handbooks and Personnel Manuals
As a general rule for private, non-governmental employees, handbooks, manuals and handouts are not “contracts” in Missouri. For example, let’s say the employer “promises” in a handbook that you will not be fired without a three-step disciplinary process. But you got fired without the three-step process. Can you sue for a breach of contract based on that handbook violation in Missouri? The answer is no.
If you got fired in apparent violation of the handbook, or the employer failed to follow its policies as stated in the handbook, is there anything you can do? Maybe. Handbooks are written evidence of what the employer’s policies are. If the employer violates its policies toward you, you can use that fact as evidence in a wrongful termination case to show that the employer has special animosity or ill-will toward you. That’s one of the key uses lawyers make of employment handbooks in Missouri.
Pay and Benefits promises in handbooks are generally enforceable: The employer’s promises in the handbooks regarding the level of pay and benefits are enforceable. See my article about Wage Problems for more info about pay and benefit disputes. Also see my contracts article for more info on enforcing agreements generally. The handbook provides written evidence of the agreement between you and the employer. If you did the work, you are entitled to the pay and benefits promised. If the benefit qualifies as an ERISA benefit, you have lots of rights under Federal law. But the most common benefit disputes are about things that are usually not ERISA-benefits. The most common benefit-related disputes regard Vacation and Sick Pay at time of termination, or withhled wages due to owing the employer money, which often end up in small claims court. See also my articles on Unpaid Final Wages, Overtime and Comp Time and Exemptions, and The Sorry State of Our Employment Protections (for a discussion of weaknesses in Missouri Employment Laws).
You are right to be suspicious when the employer violates its handbook toward you. Try to figure our why. See my FAQ about employment law, my article on Retaliation, and my Discrimination article. Call a lawyer. Maybe the employer is retaliating against you for something that gives you legal rights. Maybe the violation of the handbook is a form of discrimination. A lawyer can help you sort out these issues.
Handbooks might give City and County employees significant legal rights in Missouri. The promises contained in handbooks can have the force of law, even the promises that pertain to grievance mechanisms and the standards for the discipline and termination process. See my article about Government Employees for more info.
If you are a City or County employee in Missouri, and you believe your employer violated the employment policy handbook, call a lawyer.
Maintained by Attorney Phil Willoughby
Founded by Tim Willoughby, Esq. (1959-2013)
Phil is a Missouri employment lawyer who is licensed to practice in Kansas and Missouri, and primarily takes cases in Saint Louis and Kansas City. He is a member of the Missouri Bar Association and Kansas Bar Association. Additionally, he has practiced in the United States Federal Courts of Missouri in St. Louis and Kansas City. He has also practiced in the Kansas Federal District Court in Kansas City, Kansas.
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Phil Willoughby, Attorney
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