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Wrongful Discharge and Discrimination

Employers cannot wrongful discharge employees in violation of West Virginia law.

Barney Law PLLC has experience in representing both private and public-sector employees who have been wrongfully terminated or discriminated against by their employers.  These cases include, but are not limited to, cases where:

  • An employee was discharged from an underground coal mine for filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • An employee was discharged from a surface coal mine because the miner was perceived as being disabled
  • An employee was discharged for speaking with federal safety inspectors
  • An employee was terminated from a sanitation service for being perceived as disabled and/or filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • An employee was discharged from a state agency because of a disability
  • An employee was discharged from a state agency without “good cause”
  • An employee was illegally discharged from a board of education
  • A public employee was wrongfully discharged for exercising her constitutional rights

Mark Barney also served as counsel on a civil rights employment case involving the West Virginia University M.B.A. Controversy of 2007-2008.  See Logar v. W. Va. Univ. Bd. of Governors, Civil Action No. 1:13-CV-145, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118830 (N.D.W. Va. Aug. 21, 2013).

If you have been discharged from your job or adverse employment action has been taken against you, it is important to consult with an attorney who is familiar with employment laws that protect workers.

Private-Sector Employees

At-Will Employment

In West Virginia, unless you have a specific contract for employment, the general rule for private- sector employees is “at will” employment.  “At will” employment simply means that the employment can be terminated at the will of the employer or the employee, with or without cause.  Nevertheless, the “at will” employment rule has many exceptions.

Wrongful Discharge

Where an “employer’s motivation for the discharge is to contravene some substantial public policy principal, then the employer may be liable to the employee for damages occasioned by this discharge.”  Harless v. First Nat’l Bank, 162 W. Va. 116, 117, 246 S.E.2d 270, 272 (W.Va. 1978).

In West Virginia, recognizing the “substantial public policy” principle, an employee should never be terminated in retaliation for reporting unsafe conditions, reporting wage and hour violations, filing a workers’ compensation claim, self-defense in the workplace or refusal to take a polygraph test.  The list of reasons for which an employee cannot be terminated is ill-defined under West Virginia law.  If you have been terminated, it is important that you immediately consult with an experienced employment lawyer to determine whether your discharge was legal.

Employment Discrimination

Employers cannot discharge or take adverse employment action against an employee because of the employee’s race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness or disability.  Employees are protected under both state and federal laws including, but not limited to: the West Virginia Human Rights Act; the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”); the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”); the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”); the Equal Pay Act; the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA); and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”).

Wage and Hour Laws 

State and federal law govern the amount of pay that an employee must be paid where the employee works over forty (40) hours a week.  As a general rule, one must look to the type of work performed to determine if overtime pay is required.  Further, under the West Virginia Wage Payment Collection Act, there are stringent rules that require employers to timely pay employees.

Public-Sector Employees

In addition to the remedies available to private-sector employees, a special set of laws govern certain public-sector employees.  Certain state and county employees have additional protection by virtue of laws and regulations that apply only to state and county employees.

If you have been wrongfully discharged from your job or otherwise discriminated against, call Barney Law PLLC now for a free consultation.