You go to work in Charleston, do a good job, and mind your business. Yet, you get hurt in a workplace accident, get discriminated against, sexually harassed, get fired for no reason, don’t get paid, or otherwise get the proverbial short end of the stick. These realities that West Virginia employees face daily motivate some workers to file employment law claims.
Unfortunately, as is the case with almost every type of civil claim, the burden generally falls on the plaintiff, the party that alleges wrongdoing occurred, to prove liability for their injuries or the harm they suffered. Doing so often takes work. Employment law claims are instead often wrought with various obstacles that must be navigated. Read on as we share some of the more common challenges in an employment law claim that plaintiffs must overcome to achieve a successful outcome in their cases.
Proving Employer Liability or Unlawful Activity
As previously referenced, one of the biggest challenges facing workers is that the burden to prove their case rests solely on their shoulders. While workers’ compensation insurance may protect an employer’s interests if a worker gets hurt on the job, it’s unlikely that they will have any coverage to shield them from legal liability if an employee:
- Reports discrimination or sexual harassment
- Accuses their employer of engaging in impropriety, such as violations of labor laws
- Files a whistleblowing complaint
Given that employers have limited insurance coverage to protect their reputational and financial interests in situations like the ones above, they’re likely to view anything potentially exposing them to legal liability, thus necessitating them to hire an attorney, negatively. It, therefore, shouldn’t come as a surprise then that an employer may not be particularly cooperative in:
- Providing information about steps you need to take if you fall ill or suffer an injury that ultimately turns out to be a permanent disability
- Investigating any sexual harassment allegations you make
- Preserving or turning over any information that would help you prove you were subjected to discrimination
- Making it comfortable for you to retain your job after making unpaid wages accusations or filing a whistleblowing complaint
So, just know that when we say that the onus falls on the plaintiff’s shoulders to prove their West Virginia employment law case, that’s a heavy burden to carry. Fortunately, there is some legal wrangling you can engage in with the assistance of a lawyer to get your Charleston employer to preserve evidence or produce documents that could help prove your claim, such as:
- Surveillance camera footage
- Phone records
- Access to colleagues, clients, or customers that may be able to corroborate your claims
However, securing critical pieces of evidence like the items above doesn’t happen without a fight.
Keeping Track of Employment Claim Reporting Requirements and Filing Deadlines
Another challenge employees face related to employment claims is not being aware of reporting procedures or knowing filing deadlines for their type of case. Not being aware of one of these can result in a worker losing their right to take legal action.
For example, in West Virginia, employees who have faced discrimination in the workplace may be able to file a complaint with the West Virginia Human Rights Commission (WVHRC) or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Whether a worker files a complaint with the WVHRC or EEOC sometimes comes down to how many employees their company has. If it has 12 or more, the employee can file a WVHRC complaint; however, if it’s 15 or more, they can submit a complaint to the EEOC. Filing cross-agency complaints may also be possible.
Continuing with the example above, while the EEOC gives complainants 300 days from the last time they faced discrimination to file their complaint, the WVHRC deadline is one year. Complainants who file after these cutoff dates generally lose their eligibility to file a claim. Filing the complaint with the wrong governmental agency may end up with the same result.
This is why it can be helpful to have an experienced employment law attorney as you navigate the complaint and the claims process. Your chances of meeting all the established reporting requirements, including filing deadlines, are greatest when you have an employment attorney in Charleston, WV who is familiar with all this information backing you up.
Misinformation About an Employer’s or Worker’s Rights
Yet another factor that becomes a challenge to workers in the employment law claims process is not having a firm understanding of their rights. This factor may initially impact if and how quickly an employee:
- Acts after having a workplace accident, being ill-treated, or identifying impropriety
- Files a complaint or claim
- Follows up in attending doctors’ visits or participating in an investigation
For example, in our experience as employment law attorneys that handle West Virginia whistleblower cases, we often find that significant time passed between a worker identifying a colleague or employer’s illicit activity before they finally built up the courage to come forward and report what they witnessed to us. We often find that the reasons that they hesitated in initially coming forward centered around a fear of what would happen to their job if they did.
Fortunately, our state and the federal government have whistleblower statutes in place. The West Virginia Whistleblower Law protects workers from retaliation, discharge, and discrimination when reporting such wrongdoing. Additional state and federal laws apply to workers reporting workplace injury incidents, discrimination, employee misclassification or wage theft, sexual harassment, and other concerns. These laws afford employees certain rights to ensure more transparent work practices.
How To Minimize Challenges During the Employment Law Claims Process
The challenges described above are only three examples of common ones that workers face when pursuing employment law claims in Charleston, WV against their employers and others. The guidance a skilled lawyer can provide in West Virginia cases like these can prove invaluable in helping you minimize the challenges you have to overcome in your own legal matter.
Contact our employment law firm, DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC for a risk-free case evaluation to learn more about your legal rights so you can decide how to best move forward.