A Law Firm Representing the Rights of Employees and the Victims of Wrongful Injury

Wrongful Termination

Most employees who work for private employers are considered "at will employees." This means they can be fired for any reason or for no reason. This seems unfair to most people, but it is the law. Fortunately, there are a few exceptions.

 Employees who work for private employers:

  • An employee may have a case if he or she is fired for an illegal reason. There are three main types of illegal reasons:
    • First, an employee may have a case if the employer discriminated against the employee based on factors such as religion, race, national origin, gender, age (over the age of 40), blindness, disability, or pregnancy. These types of cases can be pursued under the West Virginia Human Rights Act or under several similar federal laws.
    • Second, laws that protect employees generally prohibit retaliation against employees who attempt to exercise their rights under the laws. For example, laws that prohibit discrimination also prohibit retaliation against an employee who, in good faith, complains about discrimination. Thus, a woman who complains about sexual harassment and is subsequently fired in retaliation for her complaint has a claim for retaliatory discharge under West Virginia and/or federal law. Examples of other laws that prohibit retaliatory discharges include the Family and Medical Leave Act, the National Labor Relations Act, OSHA and MSHA. Some of these laws permit a lawsuit in court. Others are limited to remedies before government agencies. The laws also differ in the remedies allowed and the time limits for filing complaints. Those who think they may have a claim should consult with a lawyer at the earliest possible opportunity.
    • Third, even if there is no statute that prohibits retaliation, an employee in West Virginia may have a case if the employer retaliated against the employee for a reason that is against public policy. There is no definitive list of all the reasons against public policy. Some reasons that violate public policy include firings in retaliation for filing workers' compensation claims, for complaints or acts concerning work place health and safety, and for testifying truthfully in a legal matter. This is not an exclusive list of firings that violate public policy. Those who believe that they have a case should consult with an attorney.
  • An employee may also have a case if he or she has a contract or works under a union collective bargaining agreement. If the employee works under a union collective bargaining agreement, the only remedy under that agreement is usually the union grievance procedure.

Employees who work for the government: Federal employees and, in West Virginia, many state employees and teachers have grievance rights under state grievance procedures. In addition, state employees have the same rights as private employees where they were fired for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons. West Virginia employees also have other rights under West Virginia's Whistleblower law.