☰ Revisor of Missouri


Chapter 290

< > Effective - 28 Aug 1982    bottom

  290.140.  Letter of dismissal, when — failure to issue, damages — punitive damages, limitations. — 1.  Whenever any employee of any corporation doing business in this state and which employs seven or more employees, who shall have been in the service of said corporation for a period of at least ninety days, shall be discharged or voluntarily quit the service of such corporation and who thereafter within a reasonable period of time, but not later than one year following the date the employee was discharged or voluntarily quit, requests in writing by certified mail to the superintendent, manager or registered agent of said corporation, with specific reference to the statute, it shall be the duty of the superintendent or manager of said corporation to issue to such employee, within forty-five days after the receipt of such request, a letter, duly signed by such superintendent or manager, setting forth the nature and character of service rendered by such employee to such corporation and the duration thereof, and truly stating for what cause, if any, such employee was discharged or voluntarily quit such service.

  2.  Any corporation which violates the provisions of subsection 1 of this section shall be liable for compensatory but not punitive damages but in the event that the evidence establishes that the employer did not issue the requested letter, said employer may be liable for nominal and punitive damages; but no award of punitive damages under this section shall be based upon the content of any such letter.


(RSMo 1939 § 5064, A.L. 1941 p. 330, A.L. 1982 S.B. 747)

Prior revisions: 1929 § 4588; 1919 § 9780; 1909 § 3020


Employee dismissal rights, damage action, time limitation, 516.140

(1985) Actual damages in a "service letter" case are proven by showing that the plaintiff was refused employment or hindered in obtaining employment, due to the absence or inadequacy of a service letter, that the position plaintiff was refused or hindered in obtaining was actually open, and the rate of pay of that position. Gibson v. Hummel (Mo. App. E.D.), 688 S.W.2d 4.

(1985) An award of punitive damages based on the failure to provide a service letter is improper except upon a showing of actual or legal malice. Comerio v. Beatrice Foods Co., 616 F.Supp. 1423 (D.C.Mo.).

(1986) An employer which fails to issue the service letter within forty-five days of it being requested may be liable for punitive damages. Talbert v. Safeway Stores, Inc. 651 F.Supp. 1563 (W.D. Mo.).

1986) A statement that termination is due to "unsatisfactory work performance" is insufficient as a matter of law under this section. Gloria v. University of Health Sciences, 713 S.W.2d 32 (Mo. App. W.D.).

(1987) Legal malice must be proven in order to recover punitive damages pursuant to this section and such malice must be averred generally in the petition. Willett v. Slay Warehouse Co., Inc., 735 S.W.2d 60 (Mo. App. E.D.).

(1987) Legal malice or the deliberate failure to provide a service letter knowing that an individual has requested one perhaps may be shown in order to recover punitive damages by proving that this section was cited in the request for a service letter. Fink v. Revco Discount Drug Centers, Inc., 666 F.Supp. 1325 (W.D. Mo.).

(1990) Letter requesting statement of reasons for employee's discharge signed only by the employee's attorney and not by the employee is not a valid request for a service letter. Zeman v. V.F.  Factory Outlet, Inc., 911 F.2d 107 (8th Cir.).

(1990) Discharged employee not entitled to actual damages for an employer's violation of service letter statute for false statements unless employee can show evidence that prospective employer saw letter and held it against employee. Employee could seek nominal damages. Prewitt v. Factory Motor Parts, Inc., 747 F.Supp. 560 (W.D. Mo.).

---- end of effective  28 Aug 1982 ----

use this link to bookmark section  290.140

Click here for the Reorganization Act of 1974 - or - Concurrent Resolutions Having Force & Effect of Law
In accordance with Section 3.090, the language of statutory sections enacted during a legislative session are updated and available on this website on the effective date of such enacted statutory section. Revisor Home    

Other Information
 Recent Sections Editorials May Be Cited As Tables & Forms Multiple Enact
Repeal & Transfer Definitions End Report

Site changes Pictures Contact

Other Links
Legislative Research Oversight MOLIS
Library MO WebMasters
Missouri Senate
State of Missouri
Missouri House