Since 1971

Law Offices of
Thomas E. Kennedy III L.C.

“In the struggle for justice, the only reward is the opportunity to be in the struggle.”
~ Frederick Douglass

WHAT WE DO

team

Who We Are

Thomas E. Kennedy III

Thomas E. Kennedy III

Attorney View Details
Sarah Jane Hunt

Sarah Jane Hunt

Attorney View Details
Althea S. Respess

Althea S. Respess

Office Administrator View Details
Thomas E. Kennedy III

Thomas E. Kennedy III

Attorney

Thomas E. Kennedy III has built a career fighting injustice and advocating for the rights of the marginalized. His commitment to improving systems that serve the poor and disabled is proven by his zealous advocacy for individuals with developmental disabilities, foster children, and minorities in the workplace. Mr. Kennedy is married to Linda Pilcher, the owner of Something Elegant Catering in St. Louis, Missouri. His son, Alec, now attends graduate school in New York City.

Experience
Twenty-two years with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc.
Land of Lincoln’s task force on disability rights law.
Directed a statewide legal services program to provide legal assistance in special education matters to children who are wards of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Deputy Director of the Illinois Developmental Disabilities Law Project.
Administrator for the Illinois Department of Mental Health.
Caseworker for the New York Department of Social Services.

Awards and honors
Graduate of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.
1989 – Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois’ first attorney recognition award.
1989 – Smithson Advocacy Award from the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois.
2004 – Volunteer Lawyer of the Year Award from Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.
2005 – award for outstanding advocacy from The Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association.
2002 – 9th Annual Clarence Darrow Public Interest Advocate Award from the Public Interest Law Group of Saint Louis University School of Law.
2003 – Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council’s Open Door Award.

Publications
MO CLE Special Education Law (2008, 2009, and 2010).
Selected by other attorneys as a Leading Lawyer who is among the top 5% of all lawyers in Illinois in Civil Rights and Constitutional Law, School Law, Elder Law, and Social Security Disability Law.
ISBA Education Law Section case law update (2006).
“Proof of Damages in Fair Housing Cases” for MOCLE (2005).
“New Standards and Decisions in School and Education Law,” co-authored with Genevieve J. Nichols, Esq., and published by Lorman Education Services (2000).
“The Americans with Disabilities Act: A White Paper,” co-authored with Nancy Leonard, Esq., and funded by a grant from the Illinois Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities (1990).
“School Law,” published by the Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education (1985).

Professional and Community Organizations
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA)
Disability Rights Bar Association
National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives
National Advisory Board, Food Allergy Management & Education (FAME)
Formerly a member of the Civil Justice Reform Act Committee of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

Admissions
Missouri
Illinois
U.S. District Courts for the Central and Southern Districts of Illinois, and the Eastern and Western Districts of Missouri.
Circuit Courts of Appeal for the Seventh and Eighth Circuits.

Education
Graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law, 1971
Outstanding Senior Award, a service award voted by the faculty.
Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

Sarah Jane Hunt

Sarah Jane Hunt

Attorney

Sarah Jane Hunt has experience representing plaintiffs in civil rights, employment and special education disputes. She also has extensive experience representing individuals in collective and class actions relating to unpaid wages and overtime under both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state wage and hour laws.

Experience
After graduating from the Saint Louis University School of Law in 2011, Sarah Jane worked as a litigation associate for a small plaintiff’s firm in Clayton, Missouri where her practice centered on litigating labor and employment disputes, including discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, breach of employment contracts and non-compete agreements and state and federal wage and hour disputes. Sarah Jane has extensive experience litigating complex matters involving multi-party litigation, commercial and business litigation, and collective and class action claims for unpaid wage and overtime under both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state wage and hour disputes. Sarah Jane is also experienced in advising clients regarding business and employment contracts and agreements, best employment practices and compliance and representing individuals in Missouri administrative and licensing hearings. After joining the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy, III in September of 2013, Sarah Jane’s practice has expanded to include cases involving disability rights and discrimination, Medicaid and other health benefits, special education as well as Fair Housing Act and First Amendment violations. Sarah Jane also remains dedicated to representing employees in labor and employment disputes such as wrongful termination and wage and hour matters.

Education
Sarah Jane is a 2011 graduate of the Saint Louis University School of Law. During law school, she was President of the American Constitution Society, member of the National Trial Competition and recipient of the Milton F. Napier Scholarship Award for Excellence in Trial Advocacy. During law school, Sarah Jane was also invited to be a member of the Theodore McMillian American Inn of Court, an elite group of attorneys and judges in the Saint Louis area. Prior to obtaining her law degree, Sarah graduated summa cum laude from Lindenwood University in Saint Charles, Missouri with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Nonprofit Administration. She remained on the Dean’s List throughout her tenure at Lindenwood, was a member of the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society and was named Lindenwood University Student of the Year in 2007.

Licenses
Missouri
Illinois
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri
United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois
United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois

Professional Organizations
Bar Association of Metropolitan Saint Louis
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
Lawyers Association of Saint Louis, Missouri
Missouri Association of Trial Lawyers
National Employment Lawyers Association
Saint Louis University School of Law Trial Team Advisory Board

Althea S. Respess

Althea S. Respess

Office Administrator

Althea joined the firm in 2009 as the firm’s office administrator. In addition to managing the day to day operations of the firm, Althea assists the attorneys and clients with their litigation support needs. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida in 1993, where she majored in Legal Studies. She was employed by the Office of the State Attorney of Florida from 1987 to 2008 when her family relocated to St. Louis, Missouri. Althea is a member of the Gateway Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators. She served two years as the chair of the Chapter’s Diversity committee and remains an active member. She is also a member of the St. Louis Paralegal Association. Althea lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband and two daughters. Althea enjoys playing the African drum, walks through Forest Park and spending time with her family and friends.

counter
90

Percentage of cases that go to trial…end in victory for the individual who brought the suit.

64

Percentage of workers who have seen or experienced age discrimination…in the workplace.

42

Percentage of LGBT youth who say the community in which they live in…is not accepting of LGBT people.

95

Percentage of pending lawsuits that end in a pre-trial settlement…for a person who filed the case.

toggles-and-more

People have a pretty good sense of whether they have been treated
right or wrong. People have a sense in their stomach, they know it and they should call us. They should do something and we will help them.

You need someone to stand up for you.

“The first step in doing something about it, is to pick up the phone and call us…”Sarah Jane Hunt

We Never Give up.

“We do cases that other people just don’t do at all…”
Thomas E. Kennedy III

The client is involved every step of the way.

“We take these cases because we believe in them…”
Sarah Jane Hunt

We help people who feel like they have been wronged.

“Were it not for our law firm, some of these people would not have quality representation and just fall through the cracks…”
Althea S. Repess

Closed Captioned Videos are provided below.

You need someone to stand up for you.

“The first step in doing something about it, is to pick up the phone and call us…”
Sarah Jane Hunt

We Never Give up.

“We do cases that other people just don’t do at all…”
Thomas E. Kennedy III

The client is involved every step of the way.

“We take these cases because we believe in them…”
Sarah Jane Hunt

We help people who feel like they have been wronged.

“Were it not for our law firm, some of these people would not have quality representation and just fall through the cracks…”
Althea S. Repess

practice-our-toggles

Our Practice

DSC_0149

"One of the strongest bonds a lawyer can draw on
is the very reason for everyone being in court
in the first place: To Right A Wrong."

Thomas E. Kennedy III

Employment law is a broad area encompassing all areas of the employer/employee relationship except the negotiation process covered by labor law and collective bargaining. Employment law is governed by thousands of federal and state statutes, administrative regulations, and judicial decisions. Our firm represents employees in claims involving employment discrimination, retaliation, whistle blowing, wrongful termination, sexual and other forms of harassment, compensation and equal pay and reasonable accommodation issues. Specifically, our firm represents clients in the following areas:
Discrimination: Employees have the right to work in a non-discriminatory workplace. Federal and state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, sex, gender, pregnancy, or status as a veteran. It is against the law for employers to consider any of these characteristics in their employment decisions such as those involving hiring, firing, compensation, job assignments, promotions, demotions, discipline or any other term or condition of employment.
Employers are also prohibited from discriminating against an employee because the employee is associated with a person with one of these characteristics. For example, an employer may not terminate an employee because they have a family member with a disability who may increase the employer’s health insurance premiums. If you have experienced one of these problems, contact the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III for an evaluation of your claim.
Sexual and Other Harassment: Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that is prohibited by state and federal law. Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, sex, or gender. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, opposing discriminatory employment practices, or participating in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit against the employer.

Minor slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents will not generally rise to a level of unlawful harassment. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people. Offensive conduct may include inappropriate jokes, slurs or epithets, physical assaults or threats, offensive objects or pictures, false accusations of mistakes and errors, intimidation, exclusion, withholding resources and information necessary to do the job, sabotage, use of insults, excessively harsh criticism, and unreasonably heavy work demands designed to ensure failure.

Harassment can take the form of sexual harassment. This form of harassment occurs to male and female employees alike. Sexual harassment may include unwanted touching, sexually suggestive comments or jokes, requests for sexual favors, verbal abuse or threats, stalking, and acts of physical or even sexual assault.

If you have been subjected to sexual harassment or forced to work in a hostile environment because of your race, color, national origin, religion, age, or disability, contact the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III.

Family Medical Leave: In certain situations, employees are legally permitted to take an unpaid leave of absence from work. Specifically, certain employers are required to give employees unpaid time off because of the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition, because of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his or her job, or because of the foreign military deployment of an employee’s spouse, child, or parent. Employers cannot fire you or otherwise retaliate against you for asking for this time off or for taking it. Contact the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III if you have been denied time off, or if you are being threatened with demotion, pay loss or termination because you used or requested time off for any of the reasons described above.
Retaliation/Whistleblowing: Retaliation is when an employer unlawfully punishes an employee for engaging in a legally protected activity. Legally protected activities can be reporting discrimination, wage theft or some other violation of rights, opposing discriminatory practices of the employer, or participating in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit against the employer. An employer cannot fire, demote, discipline, or take any other adverse employment action against an employee for engaging in one of these activities.

Whistleblowers are also protected by both state and federal law. This means employers are prohibited from firing an employee because he or she refuses to perform illegal conduct, reports illegal conduct to a supervisor or manager, or reports illegal conduct to an outside agency. An employee who reports what he or she reasonably believes to be illegal conduct is protected from wrongful termination even if it turns out the employer’s conduct is not in fact illegal. Similarly, an employee who refuses to perform what he or she reasonably believes to be an illegal activity is also protected from wrongful termination even if the conduct is not actually illegal.

If you believe you were terminated for blowing the whistle on your employer or believe you were retaliated against for engaging in a legally protected activity, contact the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III for an evaluation of your claim.

Compensation Discrimination: It is illegal for an employer to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform the same or similar work, even if the job title is different. Compensation discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, age, or disability is also illegal. The laws against compensation discrimination cover all forms of compensation including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, travel reimbursements, and other benefits. The Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III can help you if you have experienced compensation discrimination. Please contact us for an evaluation of your claim.
Minimum Wage and Overtime Compensation: The law requires most employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage as well as overtime pay at time-and-a-half of an employee’s regular rate of pay for work over 40 hours a week. There are certain complex exceptions to this general rule, and the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III specializes in helping individuals determine whether they are covered under federal or state wage and hour laws.

Wage and hour law is very complicated, and it is not uncommon for employers to fail to pay employees all wages due, either intentionally or out of ignorance. For instance, some employers mistakenly believe they can avoid paying the minimum wage or overtime pay by paying an employee a salary or a flat fee rather than by the hour, by misclassifying an employee as “exempt,” by misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor, by “banking” an employee’s time worked in one pay period and applying it to another, by falsifying time records or paychecks, or by forcing the employee to work “off-the-clock.” Likewise, many employees mistakenly believe they are not entitled to overtime compensation if they do not get overtime “pre-approved” by their employer or if they do not complain about the employer’s failure to pay overtime wages.

Entitlement to minimum wage and overtime pay is mostly governed by the nature of an employee’s job duties. For instance, an employer may erroneously believe an employee is “exempt” merely because the employee receives a flat salary, while the employee’s job duties actually qualify the employee for minimum wage and overtime pay. Further, if an employee is given a “1099” and labeled as an “independent contractor” but the employer still exercises significant control over the employee’s work, the employer may have deprived the employee from legally mandated minimum wage and overtime pay.

Employers must pay for all work performed by their employees including any work performed “off-the-clock.” “Off-the-clock” work may include tasks performed before clocking in or after clocking out such as preparation and clean up, dressing in required clothing or safety gear, and traveling between work sites. Such work may also include “on call” time and time spent attending work meetings or trainings.

It is also illegal for employers to require employees to work during breaks or meal periods without pay. If an employee works through the break, the employer may be required to pay the employee for some or all of the break period. Further, an employer cannot dock an employee’s pay for short rest breaks even if the employee performed no work during the short break. An employer is only allowed to deduct breaks or meal periods lasting 30 minutes or longer from an employee’s pay so long as the employee is fully relieved from their work duties during the entire break period.

Employees seeking unpaid wages may file suit as individuals or as part of a class or collective action. In addition to recovery of unpaid wages, an employee who successfully files suit for unpaid wages may be able to recover double the amount of the total unpaid wages in liquidated damages. Our firm is experienced in filing cases on behalf of individuals and classes of individuals who wish to recover their unpaid wages. If you believe your minimum wage or overtime compensation rights have been violated, call the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III so we can evaluate your claim.

Non-Compete and Employment Agreements: Often times, employers require their employees to sign a non-compete, non-solicitation or confidentiality agreement so that employees cannot use the knowledge they gained during employment in subsequent business endeavors. Employers sometimes attempt to unfairly enforce these agreements so that you cannot earn a living after your employment relationship ends. Whether a non-compete agreement is enforceable is the source of many employment law disputes. If you require assistance in understanding or interpreting the terms of your employment agreement or if you need assistance in a lawsuit filed by your employer seeking to enforce your employment agreement, contact the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III.
Breach of Employment Contract: In some cases, an employer enters into a written contract with an employee and then breaches the agreement. Many employment contracts contain specific durations of employment or indicate that the employee may only be terminated for good cause. Breach of contract claims often result when an employer fires an employee prior to the end of the contract’s duration or without giving good cause for the termination. In such cases, the employee may be entitled to compensation for the amount of time remaining on the contract. The Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III is available to review employment contracts and provide advice regarding possible breach of contract claims.
Severance Negotiations: When an employee is laid off or fired, some employers may offer severance to the terminated employee. In order to receive the severance payment in most situations, the employer requires the terminated employee to sign a release, a document giving up any claims the employee has against the employer. If you need legal assistance to help you understand your severance agreement or to help you negotiate the terms of your severance agreement, contact the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III. Our attorneys can guide you through the severance negotiation process.

EMPLOYMENT LAW CASES

Marquitta McAfee, Draphy Durgins, Jeffrey Waters and Rory Stewart v. Marion Hubbard and East St. Louis Park District, No. 14-cv-01010 (S.D. Ill). Ms. McAfee was sexually harassed by the Police Chief of the East St. Louis Park District. She was a lieutenant in the Park District’s police department and worked for more than a decade without incident. After Marion Hubbard was appointed Police Chief, he sexually harassed her by pressing his genitals against her back and making obscene comments to her and others. He then prevented her from returning to work at the Park District when she complained. Ms. McAfee and several other police officer are also suing the Park District in a collective class action under the Fair Labor Standards Act and Illinois labor law for unpaid wages. The Park District formerly had a policy of requiring its police officers to work without pay as “volunteers” as a condition of paying them for some of their shifts at work. For example, one officer was required to work a total of 53 hours in July 2013 but had to work 40 hours for free. Ms. McAfee is suing for damages. She and the other officers are suing on behalf of all Park District police officers for unpaid wages, overtime, and liquidated damages under federal and state law. The case is set for trial in July 2016.

Terryana Richardson v. Ronald Ike and City of East St. Louis, Illinois, No. 16-cv-065 (S.D. Ill.). We represent Terryana Richardson, a young woman who worked for the Police Department of the City of East St. Louis as a summer intern in a youth employment program. On her first day on the job, she was asked to work with Ronald Ike, then the Asst. Police Chief. Ike took her to his office and sexually harassed her. Among other things, he rubbed his genitals against her shoulder and told her he expected to find her naked when her returned to his office After Ms. Richardson filed her complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, the City disclosed that several other women in the Police Department had also been sexually harassed by Ronald Ike. Plaintiff is suing both Ike and the City of East St. Louis for damages. The case has not yet been set for trial.

Ingram v. Hagen, No. 14-cv-00792-MJR (S.D. Ill.). We represent a woman who suffered sexual harassment and was not paid properly at a landscaping business in Clinton County. Her supervisor wrote her love letters and touched her inappropriately. He also classified her improperly as an independent contractor, didn’t issue a final paycheck, didn’t pay her for overtime, and sometimes didn’t pay her the minimum wage. When she quit, he had her arrested for alleged theft. These charges were later dismissed. We are seeking unpaid wages, damages, as well as punitive and liquidated damages on her behalf. Trial is set for December 2015.

Tesar v. Union R-XI Sch. Dist., et al., No. 15-cv-00943 (E.D. Mo.) Our client was a teacher in a school district who became involved in a special education due process hearing involving one of her students. Some students had “class-within-a-class” services listed in their IEP’s, but the school district refused to provide these services at the beginning of the next school year. One parent filed a due process hearing request about the unilateral cessation of this service. The school district originally listed our client as one of its witnesses, then dropped her when she advised its attorney that she’d tell the truth. Then the student’s parent listed our client as a witness. Prior to the hearing, the school district and its attorney disclosed private and confidential information from our client’s personnel file to the parent and the hearing officer so it could use these documents to impeach her testimony at the upcoming hearing. We are seeking damages from our client for violation of the anti-retaliation provisions of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as Missouri privacy law.

EEOC and Pamela Perry v. Comprehensive Behavioral Health Ctr. of St. Clair County, Inc., (S.D. Ill. 2012). Our firm recently filed a Complaint in Intervention on behalf of Pamela Perry in an EEOC employment discrimination case in federal court in East St. Louis. Our client has multiple sclerosis. Ms. Perry was a mental health counselor with 23 yrs. of experience at the Center but was discharged after her employer denied her accommodations requests. She asked for a quiet work area, a dictation program (like Dragon Naturally Speaking) so she could dictate her case notes rather than handwrite them, and the right to wear tennis shoes at work instead of painful dress shoes. All of her requests were denied. She was replaced by a person with less experience who was a personal acquaintance of the Center’s director. Our client seeks reinstatement, back pay, and damages. The EEOC also seeks policy changes at the Center to require compliance with the ADA. No. 3:12-cv-01031-WDS-SCW.

Frazer et al. v. City of East St. Louis et al. (S.D. Ill. 2011). In July 2011, a jury returned a verdict for our clients, two former members of the East St. Louis Fire and Police Board of Commissioners who were removed from their positions after opposing racial discrimination in the hiring of police officers in East St. Louis. The jury awarded compensatory damages and punitive damages in excess of what the plaintiffs sought. No. 3:09-cv-802-JPG-SCW.

Tarvin, et al., v. Board of Educ., East St. Louis Sch. Dist. No. 189, et al., (S.D. Ill. 2009). Our clients are two precinct committeemen and a local union official who were employed by the school district as carpentry supervisor, and in-house detention coordinator and school security coordinator. They were demoted and suffered pay decreases because they supported candidates for school board other than those endorsed by the Democratic Party. This First Amendment retaliation case sought declaratory and injunctive relief and damages. After the District Court denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the case was settled. No. 3:09-cv-655-GPM-CJP.

Bouas v. Board of Educ., Mascoutah Comm. U. Sch. Dist., Charge No. 19, (Illinois Human Rights Commission 2008) is an employment discrimination case against a school district which initially hired our client, a former police officer, then fired him from his campus monitor job when it learned that he received disability benefits. Our client sought reimbursement, back pay and reinstatement to the job. The case settled. Charge No. 560-2008-02929.

Education law is governed by state and federal statutes and agencies responsible for its administration. The U.S Department of Education is the executive department of the federal government responsible for advising on educational plans and policies and administration of the department, which provides assistance for education and carries out educational research. Parents and their children are entitled to certain rights under a variety of federal and state laws. We have handled every aspect of school law and special education. We exclusively represent either parents or organizations serving children or adults with disabilities and including these areas as well. Our attorneys have experience representing individuals with disabilities and corporations that serve people with disabilities in a wide range of matters, including but not limited to:
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that ensures children with disabilities receive the special education and related services they need. IDEA requires that every child with a recognized disability receives a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) that is tailored to the child’s individual needs. Another core principle of IDEA is that every student with a disability should be educated in their least restrictive educational environment (LRE). This means a student cannot be placed in a segregated classroom setting solely because the student is disabled. Rather, a student who has a disability should be educated with non-disabled peers to the greatest extent that is appropriate.

IDEA requires public schools to evaluate children with suspected disabilities at no cost to the parents. If the evaluation report determines a child has a recognized disability and is in need of special education services, then the school district must draft and implement an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP is a formal contract outlining the special education services and support the school will provide in order for the child to benefit from the educational program. An IEP must be implemented before a student can begin receiving special education services and it must be reviewed and updated each year.

IDEA also outlines specific procedural safeguards to help parents advocate for their child’s educational well-being. IDEA requires public schools to allow parents to participate in all meetings concerning their child, examine their child’s school records, request an independent evaluation and agree or disagree with placement decisions. IDEA also require school district give sufficient notice to parents regarding all meetings concerning their child as well as any proposed amendments to the IEP or placement decisions.

IDEA is a complex law that can be difficult to navigate alone. The Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III can assist you in understanding the procedural process, evaluating the school district’s conduct and pursuing any necessary legal action. When a school district fails to conduct a satisfactory evaluation, we assist parents in securing an independent evaluation and seeking reimbursement for the cost. We also counsel parents on developing an appropriate and enforceable IEP. If a dispute arises with your school district, the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III has the experience necessary to aggressively pursue due process litigation through the hearing procedures outlined by IDEA.

Section 504: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal statute that provides certain rights to individuals with disabilities. Section 504 prohibits all recipients of federal funding from discriminating on the basis of a person’s disability. This includes all public schools from early childhood programs through college-level institutions. Section 504 also applies to any private school or university that receives federal funding.

Section 504 applies to any student with a disability. Some students with disabilities require a 504 Plan to accommodate their disability. A 504 Plan can include special education and related services and can outline specific accommodations required by the student. Sometimes schools improperly refuse to provide a student with a disability with a 504 Plan, or, a student may have a 504 Plan in place that the school fails follow appropriately. If you believe your child is not receiving appropriate services under Section 504 or if you are a student who believes you are entitled to accommodations under Section 504, contact the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III for an evaluation of your claim.

Title IX: Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex at educational institutions that receive federal funds, which includes all public schools and some private schools and universities. Specifically, Title IX protects victims of on-campus gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. Title IX claims can also arise if the discrimination, harassment or assault occurred off campus if there is a sufficient connection to an educational program or activity. These protections apply to all students and employees whether they are male, female, or gender-nonconforming.

Under Title IX, schools have a legal duty to proactively prevent illegal gender-based conduct. Schools must also implement reporting procedures for gender-based harassment, discrimination, and violence and provide accommodations to victims of discrimination. Title IX also prohibits schools from retaliating against a student for exercising their rights protected by Title IX. If you believe your child has a Title IX claim or you are a student seeking to invoke your rights under Title IX, contact the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III for assistance.

School Discipline: Students facing discipline – such as suspension and expulsion – have rights, including the right to a written explanation for the suspension or expulsion, a right to present their side of the story and the right to a hearing before an impartial hearing officer or the school board. Students are entitled to an attorney at their expulsion hearings. Students with disabilities, even those without an IEP or 504 Plan, are granted additional protections against school discipline. Students enrolled in college or university also face disciplinary issues such as placement on academic probation, accusations of a conduct violations or plagiarism, or disputes with the school about enrollment status. Our office is experienced in handling school discipline matters occurring at all levels of the education process. If your child is facing discipline at school or discipline proceedings have been initiated against you, contact the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III.
Testing Accommodation: Students with disabilities have the legal right to receive testing accommodations, but sometimes these accommodations are denied by school districts, colleges/universities or private testing agencies. Our attorneys have experience with cases involving students with disabilities that have been denied accommodations on tests. Contact the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III for assistance.
Bullying and Harassment: Unfortunately, bullying is a part of many school environments. When a student is bullied to the point at which their wellbeing and education are at risk, it is the school’s responsibility to provide measures to protect and aid the student. More specifically, when students are bullied on account of a disability, Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) guarantees that these students will receive the help they need. If your child has been bullied, and/or their FAPE rights have been violated, the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III can help.

School Law and Special Education Cases

A.Y. v. St. Louis Public Schools, No. 4:14-cv-1415 (E.D. Mo). A young girl with autism who moved into St. Louis City was placed by SLPS in a regular education class without special education services. She was physically and sexually abused by other students in her class. Eventually the student was hospitalized after she made multiple suicide attempts. When the student began attending a homebound program, SLPS failed to modify the student’ IEP to address new diagnoses of depression and PTSD and failed provide appropriate services in the homebound program. We successfully represented the parent in a due process hearing. Among other things, the Commissioner found that bullying at school resulted in a denial of a free appropriate public education. Placement for the student was ordered at Great Circle/Edgewood Children Center. When the parent sued for reimbursement of attorney’s fees, SLPS filed a counterclaim appealing the Commissioner’s order, then held a new IEP meeting and attempted to change the student’s placement from Edgewood back to SLPS. We then filed a new due process hearing request to maintain the student’s stay put placement at Edgewood. Thereafter the parties reached a confidential settlement.

C.P. and O.P. v. Board of Educ., Jacksonville Sch. Dist. No. 117. #117 v. C.P and O.P., et al., No. 15-cv-03228 (C.D.Ill). We successfully represented a student with autism in a due process hearing. The student developed severe aggressive and self-injurious behaviors and PTSD at school because of the district’s improper disciplinary procedures and failure to regularly consult with a BCBA. The district then ignored homebound recommendations of the student’s pediatrician, psychiatrist, psychologist and others. Instead the district proposed to place the student at Hope Institute but without the accommodations for transportation that were needed because of the student’s urological condition requiring her to use the bathroom as often as every 20 minutes.. After a six-day hearing, the impartial hearing officer ordered that the student’s home ABA program be maintained for at least six months at a cost of more than $13,000 per month, that the school district reimburse the parents for more than $10,000 in expenses incurred for the home ABA program, and that the school district then develop an appropriate transition plan for the student’s return to school. The district filed its appeal in the U. S. District Court in August 2015 and sought a preliminary injunction to avoid making the foregoing payments. The district’s motion was recently denied. The district also lost its attempt to keep the court’s decision denying the preliminary injunction under seal. Now all payments to the parents have been made, the student’s stay-put status remains in the home ABA program, briefing in the case will conclude in August 2016, and a decision is expected shortly thereafter.

Student v. Pikeland CUSD 10, 2013-0358. Our client, a bi-racial African-American/Caucasian young man, was repeatedly bullied in school on account of his race, including racial name calling, racial epithets written on his locker, and an incident of physical hazing in the boys locker room. These incidents of harassment exacerbated the the student’s symptoms of depression and anxiety and resulted in suicidal and homicidal ideations. Despite many signs of an emotional disturbance–including prior hospitalizations, reports of auditory hallucinations, and frequent contact with mental health providers–the school district’s only educational diagnoses was learning disabled. The district provided no services or goals to adequately address the student’s social and emotional issues. Following a four day hearing, the Impartial Hearing Officer found that the district had denied the student FAPE by failing to assess the student and identify all of his disabling conditions, and by failing to create individualized and measurable goals to address his anxiety and depression. The Impartial Hearing Officer ordered all of the relief requested by our client, including counseling and tutoring services.

Doe v. Sobeck, No. 3:12-cv-01222-JPG-DGW (S.D. Ill. 2012). Our client, a young woman with developmental disabilities, was raped by another participant in a developmental training (“DT”) program in West Frankfort, Illinois. On her behalf, her parents are suing the The H Group BBT, Inc., and two of its employees for compensatory and punitive damages. Her claims are based on Title IX, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Illinois state tort law.

Edwardsville Special Education Placements, (Illinois State Board of Education Due Process Hearings). Edwardsville School District 7 recently instituted a blanket policy of removing students with autism and emotional or behavioral disabilities from private placements (such as at Giant Steps or Logos School) and returning them to the District, even where the evidence indicates the student requires the services of a private placement to receive a free, appropriate, public education. Our firm has represented several families in Edwardsville, Illinois, who each filed due process hearing requests against the Edwardsville School District. In many cases, the disputes center around the removal of a student from his or her private placement. Our firm has negotiated a series of favorable settlements on behalf of our clients which preserved the private placements and, in some cases, resulted in reimbursement of attorney’s fees. We also recently represented parents in a four-day due process hearing in which the hearing officer ordered the return of a student to a private placement for not less than 18 months.

Mapaville Litigation (E.D. Mo. 2010). Our clients are parents of students with severe disabilities who attended Mapaville State School in Festus, Mo. They discovered abusive treatment of their children at Mapaville after secretly recording several classes. The audiotapes revealed verbal and physical abuse of children, teachers and aides participating in Jazzercize activates while children were ignored, students being put down for naps for lengthy periods each day, and teachers and therapists falsifying records of services to students, among other things. Six families file due process hearing requests; five lost, one family obtained partial relief, and one family (represented by our firm) was successful. Then our firm agreed to handle all these cases on appeal in the U.S. District Court. Eventually Mapaville and the Missouri Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed to settlements in each case which provided for a wide range of compensatory services over a three-year period, including independent augmentative communication evaluations, unannounced monitoring of Mapaville, and payments to our clients ranging from $10,000.00 to $200,000.00. The last Mapaville case was concluded in January 2013.

N.L., et al., v. Special School District of St. Louis County (Nos. 10-1894 and 10-2008, 8th cir. 2010), was an appeal of a special education due process hearing decision. Our clients are parents of N.L., an adoptee with reactive attachment disorder (RAD). The Special School District (SSD) placed N.L. in at least 13 separate placements with over 100 different service providers prior to third grade. Eventually SSD placed N.L. at Edgewood Children’s Center, a day program for students with severe behavioral problems. Our clients enrolled their son at Edgewood for six weeks, then removed him and placed him in private school upon the recommendation of his psychiatrist. The hearing panel found that the school district’s placement of N.L. at Edgewood was not in the least restrictive environment and that his former SSD placement violated his right to a free appropriate public education. The hearing panel ordered substantial compensatory services but denied the parents’ claim for private school tuition reimbursement. Both parties then appealed. The hearing panel’s decision was affirmed by the U.S. District Court, and both parties appealed again. While the case was pending in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, the parties reached a settlement involving payment to our clients of $105,000.00.

Civil rights law deals with the protections and liberties enjoyed by the American people. These rights are designed to ensure that people are treated equally and without respect to their ethnicity, gender, or other such attributes. They also guard against overly intrusive conduct by the government. Government actors are not permitted to make decisions arbitrarily, or to deprive individuals of their lives or property without affording them due process of law. While civil rights violations give rise to a host of civil and criminal penalties for the offender, attorneys practicing in this area of the law are generally engaged in seeking financial compensation for victims. Our firm is dedicated to opposing all types of discrimination and protecting our client’s rights to free speech, liberty, due process, and equal protection of the laws. We have successfully litigated matters concerning the following:
First Amendment Retaliation: Our civil rights firm is dedicated to opposing all types of discrimination and protecting our client’s rights. The First Amendment grants the right to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly and petition. Most complex of these rights is freedom of speech, which includes both verbal and nonverbal communication. It is unlawful for government agencies, including police officers, to retaliate against someone for expressing their First Amendment rights. Further, the First Amendment protects government employees from retaliation from government employers for speaking out on matters of public concern. If you believe your First Amendment rights have been violated, the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III can help.
Housing Discrimination: The federal Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting, buying, or securing financing for any housing. Housing discrimination is also illegal under Missouri and Illinois state law. Specifically, landlords, apartment associations, housing managers, lenders, and real estate agents are prohibited from discriminating against individuals on the basis of their sex, disability, race, color, national origin, or familial status. The Law Offices of Thomas Kennedy III is a civil rights firm that has litigated a wide range of fair housing cases including discrimination by municipalities against group homes serving individuals with developmental disabilities, discrimination by landlords in the rental of apartments, discrimination by trailer park owners in the rental of trailer plots, and discrimination by municipalities in the provision of public services. If you have been discriminated against by a housing provider, call the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III so our experienced attorneys can assist you.
Public Accommodations: Places of public accommodation, such as retail stores, restaurants, parking garages, parks, theaters, medical offices, museums, libraries, hotels, educational institutions, and government buildings, are areas prohibited by both federal and Missouri law from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, or disability. Some examples of discrimination in places of public accommodation include: harassment of customers, refusal to serve or providing inferior service, prohibiting the entry of a service animal, failing to provide an accessible restroom, parking space or entrance, or failing to accommodate to a person’s disability. Our office has years of litigation experience pursuing civil rights matters on behalf of individuals who have been discriminated against in places of public accommodation. Contact the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III if you believe your rights have been violated in a place of public accommodation.

CIVIL RIGHTS AND CONSTITUTIONAL LAW CASES

U.S. et al. v. Wallschlaeger, 3:14-cv-00129-SMY (S.D. Ill.). We represented tenants of a trailer park in Effingham, Illinois who were victims of racial discrimination. Our client, a resident of the trailer park, became disabled and invited his niece to move in and assist him with activities of daily living. When she invited her African American boyfriend to live with them, the manager of the mobile home park refused to allow him on the lease. Racial epithets and threats were then directed to the young man. No African Americans had ever lived in the trailer park before. Eventually all three clients had to move from the park. The clients contacted HOPE Fair Housing Center in Chicago, which referred the case to the U.S. Department of Justice. Caucasian and African American testers then visited the park and inquired about possible residency: the Caucasian testers were immediately offered a lease, while the African American testers were discouraged from applying. The U. S. Dept. of Justice filed suit against the owner of the trailer park as well as the managers, and our clients intervened in the case. After lengthy pretrial discovery, the case was eventually settled. Pursuant to a consent decree, our clients were received damages in the amount of $217,500, the landlord paid a civil penalty of $50,000, and the landlord agreed to establishment of nondiscriminatory application process and to Fair Housing training.

Joan Hoyt v. Law School Admission Council (E.D. Mo. 2013). Together with Jo Anne Simon, a Brooklyn, N.Y attorney who specializes in disability law, our office represents an individual who was denied reasonable testing accommodations to address her anxiety disorder and learning disabilities when taking the LSAT. A complaint for injunctive relief was filed on September 4, 2013.

EEOC and Pamela Perry v. Comprehensive Behavioral Health Ctr. of St. Clair County, Inc., (S.D. Ill. 2012). Our firm recently filed a Complaint in Intervention on behalf of Pamela Perry in an EEOC employment discrimination case in federal court in East St. Louis. Our client has multiple sclerosis. Ms. Perry was a mental health counselor with 23 yrs. of experience at the Center but was discharged after her employer denied her accommodations requests. She asked for a quiet work area, a dictation program (like Dragon Naturally Speaking) so she could dictate her case notes rather than handwrite them, and the right to wear tennis shoes at work instead of painful dress shoes. All of her requests were denied. She was replaced by a person with less experience who was a personal acquaintance of the Center’s director. Our client seeks reinstatement, back pay, and damages. The EEOC also seeks policy changes at the Center to require compliance with the ADA. No. 3:12-cv-01031-WDS-SCW.

Alexander v. Baxton, et al. (S.D. Ill. 2012). Alexander settled her federal ADA and Section 504 claims against the Village of Alorton, Illinois, its police chief, and four police officers for the sum of $110,000.00. Alexander has transverse myelitis and very limited feeling in her legs. She stands and ambulates with leg and arm braces. In August 2011 she was falsely arrested after a disturbance at the Greystone Apartments housing project in Alorton, then transported to the Village’s inaccessible police station. Despite the accessibility requirements imposed by the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Village Board inexplicably decided in 2005 to move the police station down a flight of stairs from its City Hall. Alexander was booked downstairs, then forced to walk back up to the Village’s jail holding cell, which remained at street level; on multiple occasions she had to walk up and downstairs without assistance and while handcuffed behind her back. She was confined overnight in a filthy jail holding cell, denied her pain medication, could not stand or move around the cell without her braces, and could not use the inaccessible toilet, sink or drinking fountain. Eventually she was released without charges. All records of Alexander’s police interrogation plus video footage of Ms. Alexander moving inside and outside the police station were allegedly “lost.” After filing her lawsuit, Ms. Alexander agreed to participate in the U. S. District Court’s mediation program, and her case was finally settled in September 2012. No. 3:12-cv-00042-MJR-SCW.

Frazer et al. v. City of East St. Louis et al. (S.D. Ill. 2011). In July 2011, a jury returned a verdict for our clients, two former members of the East St. Louis Fire and Police Board of Commissioners who were removed from their positions after opposing racial discrimination in the hiring of police officers in East St. Louis. The jury awarded compensatory damages and punitive damages in excess of what the plaintiffs sought. No. 3:09-cv-802-JPG-SCW.

Hiltibran v. Levy (W.D. Mo. 2010). This suit, brought on behalf of MO Healthnet (Missouri Medicaid) recipients, challenges the State’s failure to provide medically necessary incontinence supplies to individuals over twenty years in age. On December 27, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Nanette K. Laughrey granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. The trial on the merits is now scheduled for Sept. 26, 2011. Our clients are all over twenty years of age and suffer from a range of disabilities. They all live in their own homes or with family members and their doctors have determined that adult diapers are medically necessary to prevent skin breakdowns and infections, which can lead to other life threatening conditions. Without these products, our clients are likely to go into nursing homes, where ironically the adult diapers are covered by Medicaid. Nursing home care costs the state about $4,000 per month. The adult diapers for our clients cost no more than a few hundred dollars.Our complaint alleged violations of the federal Medicaid law, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Judge Laughrey granted a preliminary injunction and evenutally summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. This case is being brought by the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy, III, L.C., Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, and the Saint Louis University Legal Clinic. No. 2:10-cv-4185-NKL.

Tarvin, et al., v. Board of Educ., East St. Louis Sch. Dist. No. 189, et al., (S.D. Ill. 2009). Our clients are two precinct committeemen and a local union official who were employed by the school district as carpentry supervisor, and in-house detention coordinator and school security coordinator. They were demoted and suffered pay decreases because they supported candidates for school board other than those endorsed by the Democratic Party. This First Amendment retaliation case sought declaratory and injunctive relief and damages. After the District Court denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the case was settled. No. 3:09-cv-655-GPM-CJP.

Bouas v. Board of Educ., Mascoutah Comm. U. Sch. Dist., Charge No. 19, (Illinois Human Rights Commission 2008) is an employment discrimination case against a school district which initially hired our client, a former police officer, then fired him from his campus monitor job when it learned that he received disability benefits. Our client sought reimbursement, back pay and reinstatement to the job. The case settled. Charge No. 560-2008-02929.

A guardianship is a legal relationship created when a person or institution named in a will or assigned by the court to take care of minor children or incompetent adults. Sometimes called a conservatorship. To become a guardian of a child either the party intending to be the guardian or another family member, a close friend or a local official responsible for a minor’s welfare will petition the court to appoint the guardian. The guardianship of a minor remains under court supervision until the child reaches majority at 18. We have worked with many families to better represent and protect their children.
Guardianships: Guardianship is assumed when one is chosen or appointed to care for, make the legal decisions for, and manage the property of a person who is either a minor or is partially or completely incapacitated. The guardian is legally responsible for the mental and physical care of their dependent. There are different types of guardianship, which depend highly on the level of the dependent’s need for a guardian. The guardianship can be general, limited, or special. A general guardian assumes the care and management of the property of the dependent, a limited guardian can only assume certain responsibilities as ordered by the court, and a special guardian is generally appointed for emergency situations for a certain period of time. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III can help you with any guardianship needs you may have.
Medicaid Waivers: Medicaid Waiver programs help provide services to disabled or elderly people who would otherwise be in an institution, nursing home, or hospital, allowing individuals to receive long-term care within their community. Our attorneys are experienced in advising clients of their rights under the waiver process and have obtained necessary waiver services for our clients through litigation. If you have a question regarding obtaining services under a Medicaid Waiver or seeking to enforce your rights under the waiver process, call the Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy III for assistance.

Child Welfare Cases

In re G.P.; In re F.W.; In re S.G, Administrative Hearings Unit, Illinois Dep’t of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) (2012). Our firm recently represented three men who were each wrongfully “indicated” for abuse and neglect of children by DCFS caseworkers. At each of the three administrative hearings, lawyers at our firm introduced witnesses who supported our clients, including expert witnesses, as well as documentary evidence which showed that our clients did not abuse the children of concern. In all these cases, the charges against our clients were expunged by the Hearings Officer after an evidentiary hearing and these decisions were upheld by the Director of DCFS.

In the Interest of R.M., (5th Dist. Ct. App. 2009). Our clients are foster parents who had custody of a 2-yr. old child with disabilities since birth. The Illinois Dep’t. of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) sought to change the child’s custody to a paternal grandmother after DNA tests revealed the father’s identity, even though the father is accused of child sexual abuse. With our help, our clients intervened in the Juvenile Court case, then prevailed in a DCFS administrative hearing, where the hearing officer determined that the DCFS decision was not consistent with the child’s need for safety and reversed the decision of DCFS. The grandmother then filed for administrative review in Juvenile Court, which was erroneously granted. The Associate Circuit Judge ordered custody to the grandmother and cut off visitation to our clients. We then successfully appealed to the Fifth District Court of Appeals, which ruled – – in favor of our clients- – that the Juvenile Court wrongly permitted the grandparent to circumvent the Illinois Administrative Review Act by filing her untimely appeal in the pending Juvenile Court proceeding. No. 05-09-0373.

Disability Advocacy / Disability Benefits Cases

In re M.F. (Administrative Hearings Unit, Mo. Dept. of Mental Health) We are currently representing a young woman with multiple disabilities, including autism and blindness. The Department of Mental Health is denying her ongoing orientation and mobility services and other blindness services she needs due to a change in the way they categorize their services under the applicable Medicaid Waiver Program.

Hiltibran v. Levy (W.D. Mo. 2010). This suit, brought on behalf of MO Healthnet (Missouri Medicaid) recipients, challenges the State’s failure to provide medically necessary incontinence supplies to individuals over twenty years in age. Read more about Hilitibran v. Levy on our Civil Rights and Constitutional Law page.

Gerken v. Sherman, (W.D. Mo. App. 2009), is a class action seeking payment to our clients of funds wrongfully diverted from the Blind Pension Fund. The Court of Appeals recently decided that the state’s method of calculating annual increases to our clients’ Blind Pension payments was incorrect. A special master was appointed to advise the trial court about appropriate Blind Pension payments to 3,300 class members, including payments for Pension benefits wrongfully withheld. Our clients then obtained different counsel. The master’s recommendation, which was adopted by the trial court, was that the plaintiffs were entitled to an award of $30 million dollars, including $19 million in unpaid benefits and $11 million in interest. The case is on appeal. 276 S.W. 3d 844.

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I hired Mr. Kennedy for a dispute I had with a university’s graduate program. Mr. Kennedy was quick to reply to my numerous inquiries throughout the duration of my case. He was cost conscious. The outcome for me was very favorable. I attribute this to Mr. Kennedy’s years of experience working with cases like mine. Mr. Kennedy receives my full recommendation for those seeking legal counsel for Civil Rights and/or Education Law issues.



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Thomas has brought calmness back into our life. We will forever be thankful for his expertise & helping us advocate and be a voice for my grandson.

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Overly impressed me on his experience on Special Education Law, Civil Rights, & most important AUTISM.

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Tom and his associate Sarah are great lawyers. They kept me informed on every detail regarding my case, and would never make any decisions without my consent. They are great lawyers!!!!!!

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