If you or someone you love was treated unfairly at work or wrongfully lost a job in West Virginia due to circumstances that seemed unnatural, you should know that you aren’t alone. Employment laws exist to protect individuals in your situation. A Charleston employment lawyer may be able to help you open a claim against your employer and give you peace of mind as well as ensure your employer doesn’t break any laws again.
At the law firm of DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we pursue justice for hardworking men and women in West Virginia who are mistreated by their employers. We file cases against employers who subject their employees to such abuses as:
- Sexual harassment
- Retaliating against a worker for reporting a safety violation at work, for reporting sexual harassment or discrimination, or for filing an injury claim against an employer
- Firing an employee for missing work when an illness or injury caused the absences
- Firing an employee after a work-related injury occurred
- Firing an employee either for a reason not permitted under the law or because the employee took some action consistent with the law and public policy
- Discriminating against an employee based on disability, age, sex, race, national origin, religion, pregnancy, or marital status (see below for more information)
- Not paying the employee the wages they’re owed
In order to take legal action against your employer, the following information may help you and your attorney build a strong case.
Employment Law: Terms to Know
If you think you’ve been wronged by your employer and are considering taking legal action, it’s a good idea to have some general knowledge about employment law. You can start by learning about some of the terms that could pop up with your claim, depending on your situation.
- At-Will Employment. This is a type of employment relationship where there is no contractual agreement. Either party is allowed to end the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all.
- Back Pay. This is a type of damage awarded in an employment lawsuit that represents the amount of money an employee would have earned if they have not been denied a promotion or fired.
- Discrimination. This refers to choices made by an employer based on race, color, age, disability, sexual orientation, etc. A single instance of discrimination is enough for a claim.
- Harassment. This involves a pattern of behavior in the workplace that causes an employee to feel uncomfortable, unaccepted, or intimidated. Repeated behavior is needed to demonstrated harassment.
- Hostile Working Environment. This is a working environment that is charged with harassment of unwanted behavior that interferes with an employee’s ability to work, as well as violates anti-discrimination laws.
- Collective Bargaining. This is the process where employees, through their unions, negotiate contracts with their employers to determine their terms of employment. This could include pay, benefits, hours, leave, job health and safety policies, and ways to balance work and family. Legal action can be taken when employers try to undercut existing bargaining relationships and roll back hard-won contract terms and conditions.
- Unemployment Compensation. If you’ve lost your job, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Employees are supposed to follow the state-set guidelines for this form of compensation.
- Pensions. A pension is a type of retirement plan that provides monthly income. A pension accumulates over the course of years and is determined by your years of service with the company offering the pension, your age, and your compensation.
- Workplace Safety. Employers have a responsibility to ensure their employees have a safe environment to work in. If procedures or protocols aren’t in place to avoid dangerous, but preventable hazards, the employee can be held accountable for injuries.
- Workers’ Compensation. If you are injured on the job, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation to aid in your recovery or help you establish a new way of life – depending on your injury. If you’re being denied benefits, you may have a viable claim.
Types of Employment Laws in West Virginia
Workers in Charleston are protected by both state and federal employment laws and acts which prevent employers from acting wrongfully or mistreating employees. These laws are crucial to the U.S. economy and change often as new policies are adopted and the expectations of society shift forward.
Some of the most common employment laws and acts that govern West Virginia workers include the following (but are not limited to):
- Fair Labor Standards Act – This act ensures standards are in place at companies regarding minimum wage, overtime pay, youth employment policies, and recordkeeping.
- Mine and Safety Health Act– This helps ensure health and safety standards are in place for miners. If a miner is injured due to an employer that breaks any of these laws, they may be able to file a claim.
- Employment Nondiscrimination & Equal Opportunity Laws– These laws are in place to ensure workers are not discriminated against for their age, sex, marital status, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, blindness, or color. If a victim of discrimination can prove that the discrimination took place, it may be possible for them to sue.
- West Virginia Minimum Wage Laws– Employers in West Virginia are legally bound to pay salary-based workers $8.75 or more an hour as of January 1st, 2016. Refusing to do so can result in negative consequences for that company.
- Employee Retirement Income Security Act– This federal act ensures that private industries follow the minimum standards for pension plan establishment and development.
- Family & Medical Leave Act– This federal law protects workers by requiring employers to provide employees with job protection and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons.
- Contract Work Hours and Safety Act– This act protects construction workers by ensuring they’re not overworked or do not work in hazardous, dangerous, or unsanitary conditions.
Types of Discrimination
Employee treatment and decisions about hiring, promotion, termination, compensation, or demotion based on any of the following factors is illegal:
- Disability– Under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers may not discriminate based on physical or mental disability. Employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified disabled individuals.
- Age– Individuals over the age of 40 are protected from unfair treatment and harassment per the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
- Sex/Gender– Decisions based on gender are illegal, whether they involve outright exclusion of women from the workplace, unequal pay for equal work performed, or more subtle discrimination such as inadequate healthcare benefits for women employees.
- Race– Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects employees from unfair treatment based on skin color, including direct harassment, racial slurs, segregation, or withholding career advancement.
- National Origin– It is illegal to discriminate against individuals based on birthplace, culture, ethnicity, citizenship, language, or accent.
- Religion– It is against the law for employers to discriminate based on religious, philosophical, or moral and ethical grounds. Political beliefs are not included.
- Pregnancy– When an employee is terminated, pressured to quit, or passed over for a job or a promotion because she is pregnant, it is a violation of federal law.
- Marital Status– Unfair treatment or harassment based on marital status, whether married, divorced, widowed, single, or in a domestic partnership, is unlawful.
Types of Labor Law Violation Claims
There are a wide variety of claims which can be filed against an employer for any of the labor laws or acts that have been violated. Some example claims we may be able to file on your behalf include the following:
- Discrimination Claim
- Sexual Harassment Claim
- Failure to Pay Overtime
- Wage and Hour Violation
- Breach of Contract
- Wrongful Termination
- Dismissing a Worker While They Collect Workers’ Compensation
If you think your rights are being violated at work, you should contact an experienced Charleston employment lawyer as soon as possible. Don’t wait to be fired. We can help you document your concerns and protect your right to compensation.
What You Need to File in an Employment Discrimination Claim
It can be difficult to gain access to direct evidence of intentional discrimination, and the law recognizes this. This is why an employee is allowed to prove discrimination through circumstantial evidence. With that evidence, the victim’s lawyer has to prove the following:
- The employee is a member of a protected class
- The employee was qualified for their position
- The employee was demoted or fired
- The employee was replaced by someone outside the protected class
The employer’s lawyer may come back to demonstrate why the employee was terminated. After this, the victim has the opportunity to produce evidence that shows the termination was based on discrimination. If the evidence and case are strong enough, the results will be in the employee’s favor.
Knowing When to Hire a Lawyer
There may be multiple occasions throughout the course of employment where you may consider hiring a lawyer. While it’s common to think of hiring one when you have a legal issue and have been wronged, there are other situations where you’ll benefit from having strong legal representation at your side. People may be reluctant to hire a lawyer while employed; however, under many statutes, employers are not allowed to retaliate against you for engaging your legal rights.
When you start a new job, it’s likely you’ll be presented with a significant amount of paperwork to sign. Some of that paperwork may come with significant legal consequences, including arbitration agreements, non-compete agreements, intellectual property assignments, and confidentiality agreements. These documents are likely to be long, complex, and difficult to understand. An attorney can explain what you are signing and may be able to help you negotiate terms.
As discussed, if you’ve been suffering from harassment during the course of your employment and your employer has done nothing about it, it’s a good idea to hire an attorney. This will ensure your rights are upheld and your employer is held accountable for not providing a comfortable work environment. It’s also imperative to seek legal representation if you’ve had to face sexual harassment.
If your relationship with an employer is coming to an end, you’ll likely benefit from a lawyer’s guidance. While this may be obvious in the event you’re being fired because of a discriminatory or retaliatory reason, you may also want to seek legal aid from a West Virginia employment lawyer if you’re being laid off and presented with a severance package. Getting counsel to help you review the proposed package will ensure you aren’t being shortchanged.
Advocating for Your Rights
DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC has a long history of representing all kinds of employees from office workers, clerical employees, and nurses to coal miners and other industrial workers. We also represent various professionals—including doctors, professors, and lawyers—in all types of ethics, employment, and licensing matters. Our record of accomplishment speaks for itself. Our lawyers have obtained some of the largest jury awards and settlements in Charleston. We also have helped numerous employees in being reinstated to their former jobs after persuading the employer involved that the firing was unlawful.
We handle all employment claims on a contingency fee basis. Under the contingency fee arrangement, you don’t have to pay us anything upfront for our legal services. If we are successful, our fee will be a percentage of the jury award or settlement we obtain for you. Many of these claims also allow for the court to award attorneys’ fees and costs, which is credited against any contingency fee. If we aren’t successful in obtaining compensation, you owe us nothing.
The Charleston labor law attorneys at DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC serve clients throughout West Virginia. Contact us today for a free consultation and evaluation of your claim.