When it comes to ending a worker’s employment in the state of West Virginia, there are several laws to which employers must adhere. For instance, an employer is not permitted to fire someone because he or she was born in a different country, is of a certain race or practices a specific religion. Breaching a contract existing between an employer and his or her workers is also prohibited under West Virginia state law. These types of violations could establish grounds by which employees have the right to take legal action against their members.
At-Will Employment in West Virginia
Like numerous other states, West Virginia has established at-will employment laws. This means if they do not have a contract in place and there are no laws specifying otherwise, employers are able to fire employees at any time. Further, they do not have to have a valid reason to do so. While these laws exist, there are several important exemptions to them. These exemptions limit employers’ rights to terminate workers in certain situations.
Wrongful Termination in West Virginia
There are several recognized exceptions to West Virginia’s at-will employment doctrine. Consequently, firing employees under these exceptions would constitute a violation of the employment laws. This could result in employers having lawsuits filed against them by wronged workers. Through these types of claims, employees may be awarded compensation such as punitive damages, front pay, back pay, reimbursement for attorney fees and reasonable accommodations. Additionally, employees may be reinstated to their positions.
Breach of Contract: When employers enter into contracts with their employees, both sides must adhere to the stipulations. For example, some contracts may promise job security, exempting employees from the state’s at-will employment law. Therefore, employers in such cases forfeit their right to end an employment relationship at any time and for any reason. Some employment contracts specify the circumstances that permit termination, including subpar work performance. West Virginia employers must honor written and oral contracts, as well as agreements spelled out in their employment handbooks.
Discrimination: Wrongful termination often involves some form of discrimination. Federal law prevents employers from firing workers based on a number of factors, including the following: color, race, national origin, ethnicity, genetic information, citizenship status, religion, sex or pregnancy. West Virginia law encompasses these restrictions and also prohibits workplace discrimination based on an employee’s human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) status. Also, state law specifies workers cannot be fired based on their military status or service or their legal use of tobacco while away from the workplace and off-duty.
Retaliation: The state and federal laws that prohibit discriminatory practices also prevent retaliation against workers who participate in discrimination hearings or otherwise assert their legal rights. This includes firing employees on these grounds, demoting them, or passing them up for promotions or special projects. Activities that are protected from retaliation include testifying in court and other efforts aimed at ending discriminatory practices.
West Virginia also has laws in place preventing retaliation against workers for the following: taking leave to serve in the military, taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act or fulfilling their jury duty obligations. Additionally, state law prevents companies from firing workers who have returned from military duty for up to one year without just cause.
Public Policy: Public policy exemptions prohibit employers from discharging workers in situations when the termination would violate an established public policy in the state. For example, an employer asks a worker to do something illegal, but the employee refuses. The company is not permitted to fire him or her on those grounds. Likewise, West Virginia law entitles employees who are injured at work to collect workers’ compensation benefits. Therefore, workers cannot be fired for filing workers’ compensation claims and pursuing this right.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.