Kansas employees have state and federal laws protecting them from the hiring stage through discharge. Even so, workers should be aware of the following basic employment laws that affect them.
Laws Affecting Hiring
People find most jobs listed online, in newsprint or in trade publications. Although hiring decisions are largely subjective, employers may not consider factors regarding personal characteristics such as race, gender, national origin, religion and disability.
Employers are generally free to ask what they want in interviews, so long as they stay away from questions about race, national origin, religion, marital status, children and arrests. An employer can inquire if a disabled person needs an accommodation to perform his or her job.
Laws Regarding Minimum Wage and Overtime
Most workers are covered under federal laws governing minimum wage and overtime requirements. Kansas has adopted the federal limit of $7.25 for all workers except those exempt under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
Employers can pay tipped employees as little as $2.13 per hour, so long as their tips and wages equal the hourly minimum wage of $7.25 for each hour worked. Eligible employees get overtime if they work more than 46 hours per week.
Certain agricultural workers; outside salespersons; domestic service workers; bona fide executive, administrative or professional salaried workers; outside salespersons who only earn commissions and certain computer employees are exempt.
All employers must maintain a safe working and hazard-free environment under state and federal laws. Anonymous safety violations reports may be made by employees who are entitled to protection from retaliation by an employer.
Any employer with at least one employee must maintain workers’ compensation coverage. This is an insurance system that provides wage loss compensation, rehabilitation, disability payments and medical coverage for work-related injuries or illnesses, as well as survivor death benefits, regardless of fault. Statutory guidelines provide the amount of benefits to be paid.
Those not covered include employers whose annual gross payroll is $20,000 or less or who employ agricultural workers. Employers may choose to be self-insured.
Leave and Time Off
The state follows the federal Family Medical and Leave Act requiring companies with at least 50 employees, and all public employees, who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the past year to take up to 12 weeks per 12 months of unpaid leave, to care for a family member or the employee who has a serious medical condition or to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. Employees may take up to 26 months to care for a military family member. Kansas has no state equivalent for smaller companies.
Employees do get time off to vote, but their employers determine when employees may exercise this right.
Threats and Intimidation in the Workplace
Federal and state laws prohibit harassment of employees, which includes making comments, jokes, photos, drawings or email that creates a hostile working environment. Employees and supervisors may not threaten or intimidate another employee or engage in unwelcome physical contact of any kind.
Sexual harassment includes unwanted advances, innuendoes, comments, gestures or any other conduct interpreted as creating a hostile working environment. Harassment also includes any other offensive gestures or comments or other activity that is directed at persons based on their religion, national origin, gender, race or disability. The conduct must be pervasive and not an isolated incident.
Employees who can show they have been disciplined, discharged or demoted or who voluntarily resign because of pervasive harassment may have an actionable claim against the employer.
Laws Regarding Discharge
The state allows its employers to discharge an employee for any reason and without notice if there is no written contract.
Employers may not fire workers based on a discriminatory reason or because of harassment, pregnancy, age, or a work-related injury or illness.
Employees are not entitled to payment for unused, accrued vacation time when discharged unless their employer has a policy or practice permitting it.
Post-Discharge and COBRA
Residents or in-state workers must have been discharged through no fault of their own, not be disabled, be actively seeking work and be able to work to qualify for benefits. The amount is determined on a person’s earnings in the base period as set by the Kansas Unemployment Insurance System.
Federal law requires employers with at least 20 full-time employees to allow discharged workers the right to continue group health benefits for up to 12 months.
The state has a mini-COBRA law requiring companies with two to 19 employees to offer covered employees continued coverage for nine months.
Talk to an Employment Attorney
Employment laws are much more complex than those summarized here. Consult an employment attorney in Kansas if you have questions regarding employment matters.