Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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Two recently enacted statutes relating to damages - W. Va. Code 55-7-29 and 55-7E-3 - are remedial and apply in a trial conducted after the effective date of the statutes when the underlying facts in the case occurred prior to that effective date. After he was discharged from employment, Plaintiff filed a complaint against his former employer under the West Virginia Human Rights Act claiming that he was unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of race, national origin and/or ancestry. Defendant removed the case to federal district court on the basis of diversity. The district court then certified questions to the Supreme Court regarding the two statutes at issue. The Supreme Court answered the two certified questions in the affirmative and dismissed the matter from the docket of the court. View "Martinez v. Asplundh Tree Expert Co." on Justia Law

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An inmate injured while working at a work release center is not entitled to workers' compensation benefits. William Crawford sought workers’ compensation benefits for a severe injury he sustained during his period of confinement at the Charleston Work Release Center. The claims administrator rejected Crawford’s application for benefits based upon its determination that he did not suffer an injury in the course of and resulting from his employment because Crawford was an inmate and not an employee as defined under W. Va. Code 23-4-1(a). The office of judges and Workers’ Compensation Board of Review affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board did not err in ruling that Crawford was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to W. Va. Code 23-4-1e(b); and (2) there was no violation of Crawford’s equal protection rights. View "Crawford v. West Virginia Department of Corrections - Work Release" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioner’s petition for a writ of mandamus seeking reinstatement to his position as a member of the Meadow Bridge Sanitary Board. The circuit court concluded that Petitioner was not a municipal officer and thus declined to find a legal duty on the part of the Town of Meadow Bridge to comply with the procedural protections of W. Va. Code 6-6-7 in removing Petitioner from his position on the Sanitary Board. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) Petitioner was not a municipal officer for purposes of W. Va. Code 6-6-7; and (2) Petitioner’s removal by a majority vote of the Meadow Bridge Town Council was proper. View "Cales v. Town of Meadow Bridge" on Justia Law

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After the West Virginia Department of Education (DOE) terminated Plaintiff’s employment, Plaintiff filed a complaint containing a constitutional tort claim and a claim for wrongful termination. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that the DOE leaked a letter it received from her previous government employer revealing that she was under investigation for misallocating public funds for personal use and that the leak of this letter violated her constitutionally-protected liberty interest. The circuit court denied the DOE’s motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to outline a liberty interest violation sufficient to overcome the DOE’s qualified immunity because the truth of the allegedly leaked letter was not disputed; and (2) therefore, the DOE’s qualified immunity barred Plaintiff’s claims. View "West Virginia Department of Education v. McGraw" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff bid on the position “mechanic trainee” at a mine owned by Eastern Associated Coal (Defendant). In July 2012, Plaintiff learned of Defendant’s decision not to hire him. He did not learn until January 2014, however, that the basis for the employment decision may have been his age. Plaintiff instituted a civil action in the circuit court, asserting that Defendant had committed age discrimination in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act (HRA). Defendant moved to dismiss the civil action for failure to institute the suit within two years of the alleged discriminatory act underlying Plaintiff’s complaint. The circuit court certified two questions to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered (1) for discriminatory hiring causes of action filed pursuant to the HRA, the statute of limitations begins to run from the date that the plaintiff learns of the adverse employment decision; and (2) for discriminatory hiring causes of action filed pursuant to the HRA, the discovery rule does not toll the statute of limitations until the plaintiff discovers the alleged discriminatory motive underlying the employment decision. View "Metz v. Eastern Associated Coal, LLC" on Justia Law

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Respondent filed a putative class action alleging that Petitioner had failed to pay him and other similarly situated employees their final wages within the time period mandated by the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act. Respondent served requests upon Petitioners seeking class discovery. Petitioner filed a motion to stay class discovery, arguing that the class discovery was overly broad, unduly burdensome, and premature. The circuit court denied the request to stay class discovery, finding that Petitioner had waived its objections to class discovery, as they were untimely raised, and had further failed to meet its burden of demonstrating why such discovery should not proceed. Petitioner appealed the circuit court’s interlocutory order and invited the Supreme Court to extend the collateral order doctrine to interlocutory discovery orders that implicate case management. The Court, however, chose to consider this matter as a petition for a writ of prohibition, granted the writ, and vacated the order denying Petitioner’s motion to stay class discovery, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in refusing to stay class discovery pending a ruling on the threshold legal issue of statutory construction that bears on the viability of Respondent’s individual claim. Remanded. View "GMS Mine Repair & Maintenance, Inc. v. Milkos" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Renee Richardson-Powers (Powers) was hired to work at an office of the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). At the time she was hired, Powers did not disclose the existence of a traumatic brain injury she suffered when she was eight years old. Powers’s employment with the DMV was terminated later that year. Powers filed a grievance with regard to her termination. An administrative law judge (ALJ) found in favor of Powers, concluding that Powers demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that the DMV breached its duty to provide her with a reasonable accommodation. The Human Rights Commission adopted the decision of the ALJ. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Powers failed to meet the initial burden of demonstrating that she was a “qualified person with a disability.” View "West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles v. Richardson-Powers" on Justia Law

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Edward Harris, a former employee of the County Commission of Calhoun County, filed an action in the circuit court alleging that the Commission committed errors in deducting and contributing amounts for his coverage under the West Virginia Employees Insurance Agency and the West Virginia Public Employees Retirement System, thereby adversely affecting his retirement pay and his retirement health insurance benefits. The Commission argued that Harris’s action was barred by the statute of limitations. The circuit court ruled in favor of Harris, concluding that the statute of limitations begins to run when the employee is subsequently damaged at retirement through the receipt of less advantageous retirement benefits than they would have received, had they been timely enrolled. The Supreme Court accepted a question certified to it by the circuit court and answered (1) Harris’s cause of action against the Commission accrued when the errors took place, rather than at the time of Harris’s subsequent retirement; and (2) the statute of limitations set forth in W. Va. Code 55-2-6 for such a cause of action began to run either when the errors took place or when the errors were first known or should have been known by Harris, whichever occurred last. View "Harris v. County Commission of Calhoun County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a registered nurse, was hired in 2008 by the defendant hospital. In 2009, Plaintiff was fired. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant, alleging retaliatory discharge, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a violation of the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act. The jury found that Defendant wrongfully discharged Plaintiff in a manner designed to undermine public policy and, as a result, Defendant had intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon Plaintiff and had defamed her. Further, the jury found that Defendant failed to pay Plaintiff her full wages. The Supreme Court reversed the jury verdict against Defendant, holding (1) there was insufficient evidence to support the verdict on the wrongful discharge and intentional infliction of emotional distress counts; (2) Plaintiff’s claim for defamation was barred by the applicable statute of limitation; and (3) the circuit court’s conduct and rulings during trial undermined the reliability of the jury’s verdict on unpaid wages. View "Herbert J. Thomas Memorial Hospital Ass’n v. Nutter" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs worked in coal mining operations under Consolidated Coal Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CONSOL Energy, Inc. In 2013, CONSOL sold Consolidated Coal Company to Murray Energy Corporation. Prior to the sale, Plaintiffs’ terms of employment included CONSOL’s Equity Incentive Plan that provided for the award of CONSOL common stock to Plaintiffs in Restricted Stock Units (RSUs). The award of RSUs was subject to a vesting schedule. Pursuant to an Award Agreement, the vesting of RSUs would accelerate upon the occurrence of certain events. The acceleration event in controversy was the phrase “change in control.” At the time of the sale, Plaintiffs had been awarded RSUs. Plaintiffs argued that they were entitled to accelerated vesting of the unvested portion of the RSUs pursuant to the Award Agreement because a “change in control” occurred when CONSOL sold Consolidated Coal Company. CONSOL failed to accelerate the RSUs and asserted that Plaintiffs’ unvested RSUs were forfeited. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the phrase “change in control” under the Award Agreement necessarily included CONSOL’s subsidiary, Consolidated Coal Company; and (2) the sale of Consolidated Coal Company to Murray Energy Corporation triggered the accelerated vesting of Plaintiffs’ RSUs. View "Consol Energy, Inc. v. Hummel" on Justia Law