A Summary of Missouri Whistleblower Laws
Missouri is an at-will employment state. Therefore, employers can discharge their employees for any reason or no reason. However, employees who have been discharged from work can still seek protection under the state’s common law protections and statutory protections. Common law protections are laws that are created by courts to address areas that are not covered by the enacted laws, whereas statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to address specific subject areas, e.g., workers’ compensation.
This is a summary of Missouri Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.
Missouri Whistleblower Laws
Common Law Protections for Whistleblowers in Missouri
Missouri recognizes a public policy exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. This means it is unlawful for employers to discharge an employee for reasons that violate public policy. To determine if an employee’s case is eligible for protection under the state’s public policy, Missouri courts look at the state’s statutes, regulations, and constitutional provisions. So if an employee is discharged for engaging in an activity and can point to a statute that was violated by the employer, e.g., filing a workers’ compensation claim, there is a high chance the employee will be protected under the state’s public policy. Generally, under Missouri’s public policy, some activities are considered protected activities. Some of these activities include:
- Reporting a violation of a law, rule, or regulation.
- Exercising a legal right.
- Refusing to participate in illegal activities.
However, the Missouri whistleblower act, which was enacted in 2017, covers most of these activities and therefore limits the use and expansion of the state’s public policy.
Statutory Protections for Whistleblowers in Missouri
No supervisor or appointing authority is allowed to take any disciplinary action against a public employee in retaliation for:
- Disclosing a violation of a law, rule, or regulation.
- Disclosing an abuse of authority, mismanagement, waste of funds, violation of a policy, waste of public resources, alteration of technical findings or communication of scientific opinion, breaches of professional ethical canons, or a substantial danger to public health and safety.
Supervisors and appointing authorities are also not allowed to require their employees to give notice to the supervisor before making disclosures under this statute and to prevent employees from testifying before an administrative body or legislative body investigating the violation of a law or illegal activities. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 105.055.
It is considered unlawful for an employer to in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:
- Opposing discriminatory practices forbidden under this statute.
- Filing a complaint under this statute.
- Testifying or participating in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this statute.
Under this statute, discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, disability, or familial status is forbidden. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 213.070.
Health Care Fraud
Employers are not allowed to discharge, threaten, harass, alter terms of employment, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for assisting or participating in a proceeding concerning fraudulent healthcare claims. Mo. Rev. Stat. §191.908.
Nursing Care Workers
No employee of a nursing home district with authority is allowed to harass or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for reporting a violation or suspected violation of a law, ordinance, or regulation concerning the facility. Mo. Rev. Stat. §198.301.
It is considered unlawful for an employee or a representative of a municipal police force to discharge, alter terms of employment, or in any way discriminate against an employee of the municipal police force in retaliation for reporting in good faith to the press or a government agency an illegal conduct by another employee. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 84.342.
Abuse of offenders in Correctional Facilities
Persons with authority in correctional centers that are funded or operated by the state are not allowed to discharge, harass or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for reporting a violation or suspected violation of laws, ordinances, or regulations that apply to the correctional center. Under this statute, employees with knowledge of abuse of an offender in a correctional center which is funded or operated by the state are required to report the abuse in writing to the director. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 217.410.
Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 287.780.
Whistleblower Hotlines in Missouri
To file a complaint under the public employees statute, call the State of Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission at (573) 751-2422.
To file a complaint under the discrimination statute, call the Missouri Commission on Human Rights at 1-877-781-4236.
Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Missouri
Unless stated otherwise by a statute, retaliation claims should be filed within 5 years of the retaliation.
Retaliation claims under this statute should be filed with the administrative commission within 1 year of the retaliatory action.
Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR) within 180 days of the retaliation. If MCHR is unable to resolve the complaint within 180 days, the aggrieved individual can request a ‘right to sue letter’. Upon the receipt of the letter, the individual then has 90 days to file a lawsuit.
Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Missouri
Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:
- Actual damages.
- Injunctive relief.
- Reinstatement to the previous job position.
- Back pay.
- Litigation costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.
- Plus any other relief deemed appropriate by the court.
The court may award a complainant actual damages and also all or a portion of the litigation costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees. Also, violators of this statute may receive the following punishments:
- Suspension without pay for not more than 30 days.
- In the case of willful and repeated violations, the violator may be discharged from his or her job position and be banned from working as a state employee for not more than 2 years.
Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:
- Payment of back pay.
- Reinstatement to the previous job position or hiring to the applied position.
- Extension of full, equal, and unsegregated housing.
- Extension of full, equal, and unsegregated public accommodations.
- Extension of a commercial real estate loan or other financial assistance.
- Extension or restoration of membership or participation in any multiple listing service or other real estate service organization or facility.
- Payment of actual damages.
In addition, the violator may be liable for:
- A civil penalty not exceeding $2000 if the violator has not violated this statute within 5 years of the filing of the complaint.
- A civil penalty not exceeding $5000 if the violator has violated this statute within 5 years of the filing of the complaint.
- A civil penalty not exceeding $10,000 if the violator has violated this statute 2 times or more within 7 years of the filing of the complaint.
Health Care Fraud
Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:
- Reinstatement to previous job position without loss of seniority.
- Two times the amount of lost pay.
- Interest on back pay at a rate which is 1% over the prime rate.
Abuse of offenders in Correctional Facilities
Employees who fail to make a report as required by this statute within a reasonable time may be found guilty of a class A misdemeanor.
An aggrieved employee under this statute can file a civil action for damages against his or her employer. Also, violators of this statute may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction, they may be punished by a fine ranging from $50 to $500 or imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 1 week and not more than 1 year, or by both fine and imprisonment.
More Missouri Laws