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WV Employment Law

West Virginia Employment Attorney

The West Virginia employment law firm of West Law Offices is dedicated to making sure employees in WV are treated fairly and lawfully.  If you have been wrongfully fired, discriminated against, sexually harassed, or injured at work, an employment lawyer at West Law Offices can help you recover full and fair compensation and in some instances help you get your job back.  We handle most employment claims including:

  • Employee discrimination based on age, sex, race, national origin, disability, or religion.
  • Sexual harassment and other types of hostile work environment claims.
  • Wrongful termination claims.
  • Wage and hour claims under federal and West Virginia law (including overtime and minimum wage issues).
  • Defamation (libel and slander).
  • Work injury lawyers Charleston, West Virginia, including deliberate intent claims also known as Mandolidis claims, and workplace violence claims
  • Employment claims involving retaliation or wrongful firing for filing worker’s compensation claims or refusing to obey an unsafe, unlawful order.
  • Claims in which your employer failed to pay you your wages or failed to pay them on time.
  • Whistle blower and retaliation claims under federal and West Virginia law.
  • “Qui tam” claims involving employees knowledge of an employer’s fraudulent charges to the United States government.

The West Virginia and federal employment laws that protect employees from unscrupulous employers are complex and often confusing.  That’s why it’s important for an employee who has been wronged by their employer to speak with a West Virginia employment lawyer as soon as possible. Additionally, the statute of limitations limits the amount of time available to file an employment claim.  If this deadline is missed, an employee’s right to file a claim is forever barred, so it’s critical to act quickly.

The West Virginia At-Will-Employment doctrine

Under West Virginia law, generally, an employer may terminate an employee at any time for any reason, including for no reason at all. This is known as the employment-at-will doctrine, which fortunately has quite a few exceptions, including the following:

Discrimination and sexual harassment in West Virginia

State and federal laws protect employees from certain types of discrimination and sexual harassment.  The West Virginia Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race, disability, religion, color, age, ancestry, blindness, or natural origin.

Workplace harassment is a specific form of discrimination.  Accordingly, harassment based on age, race, sex, disability, or religion is prohibited by law.  There are two forms of sexual harassment in the workplace. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor demands sexual favors from a subordinate employee in exchange for getting or keeping a job.

Hostile work environment sexual harassment is the second and most common form of sexual discrimination.  A hostile work environment claim exists when there is unwelcome conduct based on an employee’s gender that is severe or pervasive enough to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment creating an abusive working environment.  Under West Virginia law, employers are automatically liable for sexual harassment by supervisors and sometimes liable for sexual harassment by non-supervisors.

WV Public policy exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine

Although the general rule is that an employer has the right to discharge an employee at any time for any reason, the WV Supreme Court of Appeals has held that an employer cannot fire an employee for reasons that are counter to West Virginia’s substantial public policies.  For example:

It is against West Virginia public policy for employers to fire employees for filing a claim under the West Virginia Worker’s Compensation Act; refusing to take a lie detector test; taking efforts to ensure his or her employer complied with federal and/or state safety laws, including mine safety laws; and reporting violations of West Virginia’s wage and hour laws.  Also, employers may not terminate a person’s employment for receiving treatment for mental illness, mental retardation, or addiction.

Some other West Virginia public policies that protect employees from wrongful termination include: The right to privacy, which limits the employer’s right to require drug testing unless the employee’s job involves public safety or the employer has reasonable suspicion the employee is using illicit drugs; the West Virginia Mine Safety Act; and an employee’s right to self-defense.

West Virginia statutes that protect employees

An employer’s right to discharge its employees is also limited by a number of West Virginia statutes, including but not limited to the following:

Termination of injured employee prohibited; re-employment of injured employee required.  Under the West Virginia Worker’s Compensation Act, an employer may not terminate an injured employee while he is off work due to a temporary disability caused by a compensable work injury.  Also, an employer must reinstate an employee to his former position, if it is available, once he is no longer disabled.

No employer shall terminate or discriminate against an employee due to race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness, or handicap.  Also, no employer may retaliate against an employee for filing a complaint under the West Virginia Human Rights Act or for opposing any of the forbidden practices contained in the Act.

No public employer shall discharge or discriminate against an employee because she filed a complaint or participated in proceedings under the West Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Act.

An employer shall not discharge, retaliate or discriminate against a miner who has notified a supervisor or authorized official of a mine safety violation or danger; has filed a proceeding under West Virginia’s mine safety laws; or who has testified in a mine safety proceeding.

An employee may not be fired because a creditor has garnished or attempted to garnish his or her wages arising from a consumer credit loan, including those involving credit cards.

Federal statutory exceptions to the at-will-employment doctrine

There are many federal statutes that protect West Virginia employees including some that parallel state law.  Some of these include:

Statutes that prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for making complaints or exercising rights under certain laws including the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act (MSHA), and the Clean Air Act.

Some other laws that limit an employer’s right to fire a West Virginia employee are the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act (WVWCA), the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the West Virginia Human Rights Act (WVHRA).  Express or implied employment contracts also trump the at-will employment doctrine.  Employment agreements often provide that an employer may only terminate an employee for good cause.

Contact a West Virginia Employment Attorney

If you have been wrongfully discharged, injured at work, discriminated against, or harassed, we strongly urge you to speak with an employment lawyer as soon as possible. West Law Offices offers free consultations, and we never charge a fee unless and until we recover compensation for you.  Call 1 (877) 943-9378 to speak with a West Virginia employment lawyer today.

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