Fired workers are often frustrated if their employer never explained why they were fired or the reason was vague. And workers are often surprised to learn that employers do not have to provide any explanation in most circumstances. However, something called a “service letter request” can be a tool for workers to obtain information from their former employer, including the reason for the termination. Missouri’s service letter law is also helpful in making an employer set out in writing the reasons for the termination. That means any changes to those reasons (e.g. during an EEOC investigation, deposition, or trial) can seem highly suspect and may indicate that there was an ulterior motive behind the firing.
The statute is fairly straightforward but anyone contemplating sending a service letter request should first consult with an attorney. As stated below, only an attorney is in the best place to determine whether a service letter is the best tool to use if there are other legal remedies available.
What does the service letter statute do?
Missouri Revised Statutes 290.140 requires Missouri employers to provide information, including how long the worker was employed, the “nature and character of service rendered” (the job requirements and the worker’s completion of those requirements), and the reason the employee was terminated or quit. This information must be contained in a signed letter from the employer and sent back to the former employee within 45 days of the employer receiving the service letter request.
Who is covered by the statute?
Most workers are covered, but not all. The worker is eligible to request a service letter only if they worked for the employer for at least 90 days, was terminated within the last year, and the employer has seven or more employees. The biggest exclusion is normally the 90-day requirement, but occasionally workers will wait too long to ask for a service letter and the one-year requirement is an impediment.
How to request a service letter?
Anyone submitting a request must pay special attention to the statute’s requirements. An email or text message to a former boss asking for the reasons for a termination isn’t enough. The request must:
- be in writing
- reference the statute (cite RSMo 290.140)
- be sent to the employer’s registered agent, a manager, or superintendent
- be sent certified mail
- include the employee’s original signature
The statute doesn’t require more but it’s helpful to be explicit that it is a service letter request and include an address within the body of the letter that specifies where the employer can send the service letter.
A few additional things to consider:
It’s important to document that the letter was sent and delivered to the employer. Taking pictures or making copies of the request, the certified mail number and receipt, and any documentation of the request’s delivery is really important. Also, if someone doesn’t know what a “registered agent” is or how to find it, then ignore this option and focus on sending the request to an HR manager or a manager that supervised you or your manager’s boss.
As I stated above, a service letter is a tool to be used, but such a tool isn’t necessarily best for every person or every situation. That’s why it’s extremely important for everyone to speak with an attorney before deciding whether to send the request. An attorney can help double check whether the request is properly done, and more importantly, advise you on whether a request should be made. There are occasions where providing an employer additional avenues to clarify or state the reason for the termination is not advisable. And an attorney is the best person to help you make that determination.
For more questions concerning the Missouri “Service Letter” Statute, contact me. I’m here to help.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements. Also, any information obtained from this site should not be considered legal advice. It is for general information purposes only. Please see the site’s disclaimer for more information.