Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendant in this disability discrimination action brought by Plaintiff alleging that Defendant refused to hire him because of his physical disability, holding that Plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of intentional disability discrimination. Plaintiff brought this action alleging that Defendant’s refusal to hire him constituted disability discrimination in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act, W.Va. Code 5-11-1 to -20. Defendant moved for summary judgment, asserting that it declined to hire Plaintiff because a pre-employment physical examination revealed that Plaintiff’s disability prevented him from completing essential responsibilities of the job and that Plaintiff did not ask for any reasonable accommodation that would allow him to complete those essential tasks. Rather, Defendant asserted, Plaintiff merely sought the complete rejection of the physician’s physical examination report. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant was entitled to rely upon the physician’s report and that Plaintiff failed pos how that any reasonable accommodations were demanded or even existed. View "Woods v. Jefferds Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the Board of Review in these consolidated workers’ compensation cases, holding that the four claimants’ applications for occupational pneumoconiosis (OP) benefits were properly rejected pursuant to W. Va. Code 23-4-15(b). Section 23-4-15(b) provides that a claimant may either file an OP claim within three years of the claimant’s date of last exposure to the hazards of OP or within three years of the date a diagnosed impairment due to OP was made known to the claimant by a physician. None of the claimants here filed an application within three years of their date of last exposure. Relying on the second time limitation, however, the claimants asserted that because they were not informed by a physician that they had a diagnosed impairment due to OP, they were not barred from filing new claims with the same date of last exposure as in their prior claims. The Supreme Court ruled that the claims were properly rejected, holding that the claimants’ interpretation of the statute was unconvincing. View "Pennington v. W.Va. Office of Insurance Commissioner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review concluding that Employer could reclaim temporary total disability benefits it paid to a claimant for an extra 156 days beyond the date Employer was statutorily required to pay, holding that the overpayment decision violated W.Va. Code 23-4-1c(h). Employer paid benefits to a claimant for almost two-and-a-half years while the claimant was undergoing medical and physical rehabilitation. When Employer discovered it had paid the claimant benefits for 156 days beyond what it was required to pay, Employer declared those days an overpayment and sought to recover the benefits from the claimant. A claims examiner concluded that Employer could reclaim those benefits under this state’s workers’ compensation laws. The Board of Review upheld the decisions regarding overpayment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employer wholly failed to follow the process set forth in section 23-4-1c(h). View "Reed v. Exel Logistics, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint claiming wrongful discharge against the Wetzel County Commission and the Wetzel County Assessor on the basis that the Assessor was entitled to qualified immunity and that all of Plaintiff’s claims lacked merit, holding that the circuit court erred in granting the motion to dismiss all of Plaintiff’s claims. After Plaintiff was terminated from his employment, Plaintiff sued Defendants claiming wrongful discharge. The circuit court dismissed the case pursuant to W.Va. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). In reversing, the Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to demonstrate that the Assessor and the Commission were his joint employers, and Plaintiff’s allegations were sufficient to overcome dismissal of the Commission as a party; (2) Plaintiff’s allegations preluded application of qualified immunity in the context of a motion under Rule 12(b)(6); and (3) Plaintiff sufficiently pled several causes of action for purposes of surviving a Rule 12(b)(6) challenge. View "Burke v. Wetzel County Commission" on Justia Law

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Workers’ compensation dependents’ death benefits awarded under West Virginia law are payable as long as the benefits awarded under the laws of another state for the same injury remain suspended due to a related third-party settlement. Petitioner received awards of dependents’ benefits in both Rhode Island and West Virginia. The West Virginia award was subject to W. Va. Code 23-2-1c(d), which provides for a credit of workers’ compensation benefits “awarded or recovered” under laws of another state. No benefits were paid out in connection to the West Virginia award because the weekly benefits paid in relation to the Rhode Island claim were greater than, and credited against, the West Virginia benefits awarded. After Petitioner reached a confidential settlement with defendants in a civil action she filed in relation to the decedent’s death her Rhode Island dependents’ benefits were suspended. Petitioner then requested payment of West Virginia dependents’ benefits. Petitioner’s request was denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the dependents’ benefits awarded under Rhode Island law were suspended, Petitioner was entitled to receive payments of dependents’ benefits awarded to her under West Virginia law. View "Moran v. Rosciti Construction Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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Workers’ compensation dependents’ death benefits awarded under West Virginia law are payable as long as the benefits awarded under the laws of another state for the same injury remain suspended due to a related third-party settlement. Petitioner received awards of dependents’ benefits in both Rhode Island and West Virginia. The West Virginia award was subject to W. Va. Code 23-2-1c(d), which provides for a credit of workers’ compensation benefits “awarded or recovered” under laws of another state. No benefits were paid out in connection to the West Virginia award because the weekly benefits paid in relation to the Rhode Island claim were greater than, and credited against, the West Virginia benefits awarded. After Petitioner reached a confidential settlement with defendants in a civil action she filed in relation to the decedent’s death her Rhode Island dependents’ benefits were suspended. Petitioner then requested payment of West Virginia dependents’ benefits. Petitioner’s request was denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the dependents’ benefits awarded under Rhode Island law were suspended, Petitioner was entitled to receive payments of dependents’ benefits awarded to her under West Virginia law. View "Moran v. Rosciti Construction Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court upheld the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review’s finding that, based on the preponderance of the evidence, Jimmie Lemon’s injury was work related. Jimmie Lemon filed a workers’ compensation claim claiming that his low back injury occurred in the course of and resulting from his employment with Arch Coal, Inc. The Office of Judges found the claim compensable and designated Lemon’s compensable condition as a herniated disc. The Board of Review affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case with directions that the claim be rejected, concluding that Lemon’s injury was not work-related. Upon reconsideration, the Supreme Court upheld the prior administrative finding that Lemon’s injury was work-related. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Review and remanded with directions to reinstate the decisions of the Office of judges and the Board of Review that Lemon’s claim was compensable. View "Arch Coal, Inc. v. Lemon" on Justia Law

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Under the plain language of W. Va. Code 23-4-8, the claims administrator did not have discretion to deny Claimant reimbursement for his meal expense he incurred while attending a required medical examination on the ground that his travel did not require overnight lodging. Claimant, who applied for workers’ compensation benefits, was ordered by his claims administrator to attend a medical examination 100 miles away from from his home. Claimant ate one meal while attending the medical examination. The claims administrator denied Claimant’s request for reimbursement for the meal expense he incurred on the ground that his travel did not require overnight lodging. The Workers’ Compensation Board of Review affirmed the denial of Claimant’s request for meal reimbursement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the claims administrator violated the clear mandate in section 23-4-8 that Claimant be reimbursed for his reasonable travel expenses. View "Silveti v. Ohio Valley Nursing Home, Inc." on Justia Law

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Under the plain language of W. Va. Code 23-4-8, the claims administrator did not have discretion to deny Claimant reimbursement for his meal expense he incurred while attending a required medical examination on the ground that his travel did not require overnight lodging. Claimant, who applied for workers’ compensation benefits, was ordered by his claims administrator to attend a medical examination 100 miles away from from his home. Claimant ate one meal while attending the medical examination. The claims administrator denied Claimant’s request for reimbursement for the meal expense he incurred on the ground that his travel did not require overnight lodging. The Workers’ Compensation Board of Review affirmed the denial of Claimant’s request for meal reimbursement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the claims administrator violated the clear mandate in section 23-4-8 that Claimant be reimbursed for his reasonable travel expenses. View "Silveti v. Ohio Valley Nursing Home, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered two certified questions from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in this dispute between two insurance companies as follows: (1) The Workers’ Compensation Office of Judges does not have jurisdiction over a declaratory judgment action involving a dispute between insurance carriers regarding whether one or both carriers are responsible for contributing toward payment of an employee’s workers’ compensation benefits; and (2) Pursuant to W. Va. Code 33-46A-7(a), parties to a professional employer agreement must designate either the professional employer organization (PEO) or the client-employer as the responsible party for obtaining workers’ compensation insurance coverage for covered employees. Further, when parties to a professional employer agreement designate the PEO as the responsible party for obtaining workers’ compensation insurance coverage for covered employees, the policy obtained by the PEO is primary over a policy obtained by a client-employer. Thus, coverage under a workers’ compensation policy purchased by the client-employer is triggered only if the PEO or its carrier default on their obligation to provide workers’ compensation coverage. View "Brickstreet Mutual Insurance Co. v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law