Employment Protections for Railroad Employees – Federal Railroad Safety Act

We dedicate a significant portion of our practice to railroad employees.  Namely, we represent current employees, past employees, and estates of employees who have died from working for the major railroad companies throughout the United States.  We regularly litigate cases against railroad companies such as Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway, and Norfolk Southern Railway.

Injuries that occur on various rails are common.  Usually, employees litigate these through the Federal Employee Liability Act (FELA).

The Federal Railroad Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. Sec. 20109 (FRSA) is another federal statute that protects railroad employees from unlawful employer conduct.  The list of protected employee activity is exhausting.  In general, the Federal Rail Safety Act protects the following:

  • Employees who have been hurt on the job;
  • Employees who report hazardous safety conditions;
  • Employees who cooperate with government agency investigations;
  • Employees who file an OSHA complaint.

Employees are always required to report any suspected violation of the FRSA to OSHA within 180 days.  OSHA will in turn investigate the complaint.  Ultimately, the FRSA provides for the possible following remedies:

  • Reinstatement;
  • Lost Wages;
  • Compensatory damages;
  • Special Damages
  • Punitive damages up to $250,000;
  • Attorney’s Fees;
  • Litigation Costs.

There are many federal laws that are exclusive to railroad employees.  Please contact us for a free review if you are a railroad employee and believe you have been treated unlawfully.

Over $212,000.00 Resolved within First Weeks of 2019

The new year is off to a strong start for our Employment Law practice.  Less than a month into 2019, we have reached favorable resolutions for clients who have suffered from unpaid sales commissions, race discrimination, and retaliation.  Proceeds from these cases have totaled more than $200,000.00 in recovery for our clients.

Race Discrimination and Retaliation  – $102,500

Unpaid Sales Commission– $110,000;

Even though the law surrounding employment litigation has been subject to various changes in recent years, all of which unfavorable to Plaintiffs, we have still been able to achieve success on behalf of our clients who have experienced unlawful treatment in the workplace.

We are proud to represent individuals whose legal rights have been violated.

Free Case Review

Schaeffer Law is now operating with the Law Firm of McMichael and Logan, and we are now conducting free case reviews in the following areas of law:

If you are seeking legal advice or representation in a non-employment law matter, we are happy to offer services in the following areas of law.  These can be scheduled by requesting an appointment using our contact form on our Contact page or by calling us directly at 314-459-4027.

I was Denied Unemployment – Now What?

This happens to people every day.  Unexpectedly or not, you lose your job.  Maybe you have some money saved up, or maybe you don’t.  You decide to file for unemployment to make ends meet while you look for a new job.  A few weeks later, you get a letter in the mail from the Division of Employment Security; your request for unemployment benefits has been denied due to workplace misconduct, and you need to file an Unemployment Appeal.  As a result, no benefits are forthcoming, and you still haven’t found a new job.

You may want to give up on the system, but you shouldn’t.  You need an Unemployment Appeals Attorney

Below is a procedural guide on what to expect if you lose your job and are denied unemployment benefits in Missouri.

  1. Expect to be Denied at First.

Employers routinely deny just about every unemployment notice that comes in the mail.  How do they do this?  Usually, they cite that the former employee violated company policy, committed misconduct, or participated in a final incident that was the last event in a series of issues that ultimately led to the company’s decision to sever ties.  If this happens, the Division of Employment Security generally adopts the employer’s reasoning as their decision, and your request is therefore denied from the outset.  If that happens, you should gear up to fight the denial.

  1. Appeal the Decision to the Appeals Tribunal

If your unemployment claim is denied, you must appeal the decision within 30 days.  Once you file your appeal in a timely manner, a “referee”, who is essentially a judge for these purposes, will be assigned, and a hearing date will be set.  In general, these hearings are conducted over the phone on a conference call, but you do have the right to request that the appeal hearing be held in person.

You need to take the appeal very seriously.  Despite the fact that these are often conducted over the phone, these proceedings are on the record, and the rules of evidence do apply.  Have witnesses ready to testify, create an outline for the proceeding, and get ready to question your witnesses and cross-examine the employer’s witnesses.  Additionally, make sure that you have provided any physical evidence that will be relied upon during the hearing to the referee and the opposing party a week prior to the setting.

  1. Appeal to the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission

If the referee denies your appeal after the first appeals hearing, you have the right to file another appeal, this time to the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission.  This must also be completed within 30 days.  In general, this ruling is made based upon your written argument and a review of the record.

  1. Appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals

If you have still been denied, you have the right to appeal the latest ruling to the Missouri Court of Appeals.  Again, this appeal must be requested within 30 days.

Schaeffer Law Can Help.

Clayton Schaeffer is an employment law attorney who has experience handling unemployment hearings on behalf of employers and former employees.  If you have been denied benefits, we recommend that you retain counsel to handle the legal proceedings on your behalf.  We will prepare the case for hearing and represent you in front of the Appeals Tribunal for a flat fee of $800.00, which is 8% of most of our clients stand to collect from unemployment.

Contact us to represent you or if you simply want to sit down for a consultation.  We can evaluate your case and explain the process of making sure you get your unemployment check in St. Louis, Missouri.

McMichael, Logan, & Schaeffer Successfully Wraps Up OSHA Fatality Case

This week, Attorney Clayton Schaeffer successfully wrapped up his representation of a small local construction business who was recently investigated by OSHA and cited for alleged violations.

Tragically, this matter involved a death whereby an employee was fatally injured while on the job.  All parties involved were heartbroken and took this very seriously, especially the company owners.  Their humility and willingness to act proactively played a huge factor in the positive outcome we were able to secure.

We employed a few strategies that helped our client in this case.  Some of the tactics were:

  • Meeting with the assigned OSHA inspector and conducting a site visit in which Clay was present along with company ownership;
  • Correcting issues during the initial walk-through;
  • Proactively obtaining superior tools and equipment that we anticipated OSHA would require, based upon the nature of the fatality;
  • Drafting and implementing new company-specific safety and training policies, programs, and procedures;
  • Abiding by all OSHA deadlines and procedural requirements;
  • Maintaining an open line of candid communication with the OSHA inspector;
  • Preparing to formally file a Notice of Contest with an Administrative Law Judge;
  • Swiftly certifying abatement of all citations before the Informal Conference;
  • Requesting and participating in OSHA’s Informal Settlement Conference.

By doing the things above, in addition to various other routine tasks, we were able to substantially limit the number of Citations issued to only 2.  And, we were also able to put on evidence regarding the company’s size, revenue, and working months to take advantage of automatic fine reductions.  Finally, we were able to negotiate the fines down a significant percentage based on our client’s good faith effort put forth since the tragedy took place.

We have dealt with OSHA on various occasions and understand how stressful it can be and how out of the ordinary their inspections often are.  If you have been contacted by OSHA, fear that an inspection is imminent, or simply want to be proactive in making sure you are employing best practices, we are always available to be contacted for immediate consult.

Sexual Harassment is Not a New Thing

Sexual harassment has rightfully become an extremely hot topic in the news lately, even though it has always been a serious problem in society, especially in the workplace.  That being said, no amount of news coverage or number of empathetic individuals coming forward can make victims of sexual harassment feel less violated.  Acts of sexual harassment are inexcusable.  This is by far one of the most difficult topics I deal with as an attorney who defends employee rights in the workplace.  While no legal recourse can ever undo the violation that somebody has experienced, it can help put an end to it and punish the perpetrator.

Under Missouri law, sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination covered by the Missouri Human Rights Act.  Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis of employment decisions affecting such individual;
  • Such conduct creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment. This is where the sexual conduct is so pervasive or severe that it creates an abusive working environment.

Under Federal law, acts of sexual harassment are unlawful pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The substance of the law itself is similar to that which is codified by Missouri statute.

Additionally, employers often get in trouble for retaliation in this context.  For example, somebody who is the victim of sexual harassment should report the conduct to HR, management, or whoever else the proper party might be identified as in the company procedures as soon as possible.  The employer cannot thereafter retaliate against the reporting individual by exhibiting any kind of adverse treatment, ranging from unfairly assigning work to outright termination of employment.  Retaliation is unlawful on its face.

At Schaeffer Law, we have the knowledge and experience to counsel you on sexual harassment and represent you zealously.  Those who come forward are always treated with honesty and respect.  And, always remember that any conversation you have with an attorney at Schaeffer Law is protected and confidential.

For more information on sexual harassment, check out our page dedicated to the topic.

The Issue with Arbitration

Last week, The Employee Rights Advocacy Institute for Law and Policy published a paper entitled “The Widespread Use of Workplace Arbitration Among America’s Top 100 Companies”.  The research was aimed at discovering how prevalent, and therefore limiting, arbitration agreements are for individuals employed by America’s largest companies. Professor Imre Szalai of the Loyola New Orleans College of Law, who authored the paper, determined that arbitration agreements are both commonplace and extremely limiting to employees.

Many companies impose certain restrictions on its employees by various means such as company policies and employment contracts.  Professor Szalai found that, among the Fortune 100 companies studied, 80 of them have used arbitration agreements in connection with workplace-related disputes since 2010.

In the event of workplace misconduct, arbitration agreements limit a person’s ability to bring his or her claim in court.  Often, these agreements set out a procedure for handling these disputes.  There are various versions of these procedures, but they generally set out a course for an investigation and determination, possibly followed by an opportunity for appeal.  Finally, there is always a clause forcing arbitration in the event that the issue isn’t resolved.  This means that a person’s ability to bring a claim in a court of general jurisdiction is limited.  In general, the decision made by the neutral arbitrator is final.

This is an issue that I run across from time to time. An individual who has an excellent case is barred from bringing a charge of discrimination or a petition for damages because he or she must see the case through the procedure set forth by its employer.

In sum, it is always a good idea to be aware of your company’s policies.  Even though you likely have no choice about whether or not to agree, knowing what your up against can influence how you move forward when put in a difficult situation.

Guide to Handling Workplace Discrimination

Every week, I encounter new potential clients who have fallen victim to workplace discrimination.  Among other topics, unlawful conduct includes Age Discrimination, Disability Discrimination, Injury Discrimination, National Origin Discrimination, Pregnancy Discrimination, Race Discrimination, Religious Discrimination, Retaliation, Sex Discrimination, and Sexual Harassment.  Sometimes, it is impossible for me to help.  Often, people wait too long to speak out or fail to preserve their claim.  Sitting back and letting others treat you unlawfully is not the right approach to take.  Below is my quick guide for dealing with employment discrimination in Missouri.

Step 1 – Review Company Policy

Look up your employee handbook that you probably haven’t thought about since getting hired or being handed the latest revision.  Often, these will have procedures to follow in the event of workplace misconduct.  If they do, follow them.

Step 2 – Report to your Employer

Let your direct supervisor and/or manager know what happened, and do so in writing if possible.  Give him/her the important facts.  Once you have put management on notice, they should investigate your claim.

Step 3 – Follow-up with HR

See if they investigated your complaint, and find out what they determined and what remedial measures are being taken.

Step 4 – Seek Legal Representation

If you have experienced the treatment, reported it pursuant to company policy, and nothing has been done to remedy the situation, you need to contact an employment law attorney.  You should also contact counsel if your employer has retaliated against you for making a claim.  Your lawyer will work with you to properly file your charge of discrimination with state and federal agencies.

TIP:  Please document your experience as well as possible.  This can make your case down the road.

DO NOT File Your Own Charge of Discrimination

Lately, I have been meeting with many individuals regarding pending discrimination charges with the EEOC and MCHR.  I commend these individuals for taking the initiative to do good research about discrimination procedure and take the first important step to having their employment issues heard.  Filing a discrimination charge is always stressful and time consuming.

That being said, these pro se filed charges are always too short, lacking in detail, and overall ineffective at mounting a proper case.  It is imperative that your discrimination charge tell a detailed story that compels the investigator to delve into the relevant nooks and crannies that house the important facts surrounding the treatment that motivated the unlawful conduct, which led to the filing of charges.  You must provide specific facts and allegations that guide the investigator to the proper destination.  Irrelevant or superfluous information should never be given.

In fact, I almost never see positive results from discrimination charges that originated pro se.  Involving legal counsel from the outset increases your chances of a favorable outcome exponentially.  We offer affordable consultations for discrimination cases, so there is very little risk in getting our opinion.  If you think you may be the subject of unlawful workplace treatment or harassment, let’s talk about it.  Retaining an employment lawyer will likely significantly increase your chance of prevailing.

Contact a St. Louis Wrongful Termination Attorney.