West Virginia Wrongful Termination Law
What does wrongful termination mean? This sounds like a simple enough question to pose when you are wondering if your employer acted in accordance with the laws, but it is not something with an easy answer. For example, West Virginia wrongful termination law may not have been violated just because you feel that your employer treated you unfairly. For them to have actually violated the laws, they would have to have terminated you as an employee in violation of federal, state, and even local laws.
How would that have occurred? The employer may have:
- Broken federal anti-discrimination laws by terminating you based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, pregnancy, and age.
- Broken West Virginia wrongful termination law and state employment laws by demonstrating the same discriminatory attitudes listed above.
- Violated a contract of employment.
- Acted out of retaliation for you exercising a right (i.e. you were terminated when it was discovered that you were a “whistleblower” about unsafe work conditions).
- Responded illegally to your refusal to perform some sort of illegal act on the job.
- Terminated your employment when you took time off that was legally yours to take (including time for military service).
- Violated their own disciplinary policies.
Sample Wrongful Termination Case:
Bobby Beasley vs. Mayflower Vehicles Systems, Inc., United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia, Civil Action No.: 2:04-0505.
Type of case: Wrongful Employment Termination
Bobby Beasley had previously sued Mayflower because of a workplace injury (Chris Heavens obtained a $300,000 settlement* for Mr. Beasley in a previous lawsuit). Upon returning to work from his injury, Mr. Beasley was offered a management position with the company. Mr. Beasley accepted the management position with the company and was later terminated from employment. Chris Heavens again sued Mayflower on behalf of Mr. Beasley; this time alleging that Mayflower illegally retaliated against Mr. Beasley because of his previous lawsuit against the company. The case went to trial in Federal Court and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Beasley, awarding him $100,000 in back wages, $35,000 for emotional distress and $35,000 in punitive damages. Result: $165,000 Jury Verdict*.
Counsel: Christopher J. Heavens, Charleston, WV
In any of these instances, you might be able to build a very strong wrongful termination case against them, but always remember that the burden of proof is going to fall upon you and not the employer. In other words, you have to prove your claim, and only if you are able to do so will the employer have to prove their innocence.
Also, understand that almost any employer of any size is going to have legal assistance on hand to help them overcome or reduce any threat of liability. The financial cost of breaking West Virginia wrongful termination law is fairly steep and can require them to pay out damages that include all of your back pay, legal fees, punitive damages, and more.
This is why your smartest first step possible is to consult with a qualified attorney familiar with the employment laws and with a history of employment law cases, particularly wrongful termination claims.
Working with Legal Experts
There are so many ways that employers might wrongfully terminate workers, and in a single case, there might be a number of viable legal pathways to pursue in order to gain the sort of compensation due. However, a lot of people also believe that they have a valid claim only to discover they don’t have any claim at all.
Consider the states with “at will” employment, such as West Virginia. This means that your employer may be able to fire you at any time and without any reason. This sounds wildly unfair and would feel even worse if it happened. However, this is not a violation of the state’s laws. If on the other hand, that employer fired an at-will employee because they heard that she was pregnant, that is a direct violation of federal employment laws. The plaintiff would have to file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and win the right to sue for making a claim.
Clearly, this is very complex stuff and is best handled by a skilled attorney. At Heavens Law, you can turn to an experienced team that offers years of work with West Virginia wrongful termination law and cases. Whether you need to consult about an issue that is leaving you uneasy or unhappy at work or you know you have a valid case, you should get in touch and work alongside a knowledgeable attorney who keeps your best interest in mind and brings the best outcome possible.
- FindLaw. Was I Wrongfully Discharged from My Job? 2014. http://employment.findlaw.com/losing-a-job/ten-things-to-think-about-wrongful-discharge.html