If you work in Kansas, you should know about the federal and Kansas employment laws that protect your rights. Employment laws apply to every part of the employment relationship, from hiring to firing and beyond. Among other things, these laws prohibit harassment and discrimination, require employers to pay the minimum wage and overtime, and give eligible employees the right to take time off work.
This article introduces the basic laws that protect Kansas employees.
Discrimination and Harassment
Under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers may not make job decisions based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), or national origin. Additional laws prohibit discrimination based on age (if the employee is at least 40 years old), disability, or genetic information. Employers with at least 15 employees are subject to these laws (for age discrimination, employers with at least 20 employees must comply with the law). Employers may not discriminate in any part of the employment relationship, from interview questions and job postings to hiring, promotions, pay and benefits, time off, discipline, and firing. For detailed information on federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, see the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Laws Enforced by the EEOC.
Kansas law protects employees from discrimination based on all of these traits, as well as military status or service. In Kansas, employers with four or more employees must comply with these laws prohibiting workplace discrimination. The Kansas Human Rights Commission enforces state discrimination laws.
These laws also prohibit harassment based on these same characteristics. Legally, harassment is defined as unwelcome comments or actions, based on these characteristics (for example, sex or disability), that creates a hostile or offensive working environment or that the victim must put up with as a condition of employment. Sexual harassment – often in the form of unwanted advances, touching, sexual comments, displaying pornography, and so on – is the most well-known type of harassment, but harassment might also be based on race, age, and other protected traits.
If you complain about workplace harassment or discrimination, you are protected from retaliation. Your employer may not discipline, fire, or take other negative action against you because you complain within the company, to a government agency (like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Kansas Human Rights Commission), or in a lawsuit.
Kansas Wage and Hour Laws
State and federal law set the rules for minimum wage, overtime, and other wage and hour protections. Employers must pay the highest minimum wage applicable to employees, whether set by federal, state, or local law. Currently, the Kansas minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage: $7.25 an hour.
Kansas employers must pay employees time and a half if they work more than 40 hours in a week. Not all employees are entitled to earn overtime, however. If you fit into an exception to the overtime laws (for example, because you are a salaried manager as defined by the law), you are an exempt employee, which means you are not eligible for overtime.
Safety and Injuries on the Job
Employees have the right to a safe workplace, free of known dangers. Employers must offer safe, healthy working conditions and perform the safety training required for their industry.
Should a complaint arise, employees have the right to request an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety inspection. It is illegal for employers to fire, discipline, or otherwise retaliate against employees who complain of unsafe or hazardous working conditions.
If you are injured on the job, you will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation. Most Kansas employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ comp provides you with a percentage of your usual earnings, pays for necessary medical treatment, and provides vocational rehabilitation and other benefits.
Many employers offer their employees leave with pay, in the form of sick days, vacation time, holidays, or paid time off (PTO) benefits. Although a handful of states require employers to give employees paid sick days, neither Kansas nor federal law requires employers to offer any paid leave benefits.
However, employers are required to offer unpaid leave in some situations, including:
- Family and medical leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with at least 50 employees to give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off per year for illness and caregiving, and sometimes longer. While you are on FMLA leave, your employer must continue your benefits. You have the right to be reinstated when your leave is through.
- Military leave. The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Kansas law both require employers to allow employees to take leave from work for federal or state military service or duty. Employees must be reinstated after their leave, and may not be discriminated against based on their service. In Kansas, employees who are called to state active duty have similar rights. And, employers must also give employees who are members of the Kansas National Guard five to ten days off each year for annual muster and camp of instruction.
- Voting and jury duty. Kansas employers must also allow employees to take time off work to serve on a jury (unpaid). Kansas employers must give employees enough time off work to vote so they will have a total of two hours off duty when the polls are open. Employers must pay for this time.
When Employment Ends
Kansas employees generally work at will. This means they can quit at any time, and can be fired at any time, for any reason that is not illegal. However, even at-will employees may not be fired for reasons that are discriminatory or retaliatory. You may not be fired, for example, for complaining about workplace hazards, harassment, or wage and hour violations.
Employers must give departing employees their final paychecks on the next scheduled payday. Your accrued, unused vacation must be included in your final paycheck only if your employer has a policy or practice requiring it to do so.
If you are laid off or otherwise become unemployed through no fault of your own (that is, you don’t voluntarily quit your job and you are not fired for serious misconduct), you will likely be eligible for unemployment benefits in Kansas. You must meet certain eligibility requirements, including a minimum earnings requirement. You must also look for work actively to continue receiving benefits. If you are eligible, you will receive a percentage of your previous earnings for up to 16 weeks, while you are looking for a new job.
A federal law called the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives you the right to continue your health insurance coverage after your employment ends. You must pay the full premium (including whatever portion your employer used to pay). You can continue these benefits for 18 to 36 months, depending on your situation and whether you have dependents.
More Information on Employment Laws in Kansas
For details on federal laws, including workers' comp, the FMLA, and minimum wage, see Summary of the Major Laws of the Department of Labor on the U.S. Department of Labor website. For state rules, see the Kansas Department of Labor website.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
If you believe your employer has violated your workplace rights, you should speak to an experienced Kansas employment lawyer.