If, for instance, you believe the only reason you were fired was that you are black or over the age of 40 you may have a case of wrongful termination.
Like almost all American states, West Virginia uses the employment at will principle. You can be fired without a reason, but you can also quit at will.
However, there are many exceptions to the employment at-will rule and your employer cannot terminate you for an illegal reason. If you were fired recently and you believe it was for an illegal reason, you should consider talking to an experienced West Virginia employment lawyer to see if you have a wrongful termination case and what you can do about it.
What is considered wrongful termination in West Virginia?
The employment at-will rule does not apply if you have a contract, if your employer discriminated against you or if you’re fired in retaliation for exercising a lawful right such as filing a complaint. Let’s have a look at each of these situations.
Written or implied contract
If you have signed a contract, an employer can no longer fire you at will. They will have to justify their decision under the terms and conditions in your contract. For instance, they can invoke poor work performance or discipline issues.
Under West Virginia laws, a verbal agreement can also be considered a contract. You’ll have to talk to a seasoned employment lawyer in Charleston to see how you can prove that you had an implied contract. Usually, this is done by describing the terms of a job offer made to you verbally and the conduct and statements of your employer can also be used to prove that you had every reason to believe you had a contract providing you a certain degree of job security.
West Virginia laws prohibit discrimination based on a wide range of protected characteristics such as race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, national origin, etc. If, for instance, you believe the only reason you were fired was that you are black or over the age of 40 you may have a case of wrongful termination.
While not explicitly mentioned in the text of the WV anti-discrimination law, sexual harassment is considered as a form of sex-based discrimination. For instance, if your supervisor is pressuring you into having sex with him, that is referred to as a quid pro quo case. The phrase translates as ‘something for something’, as in sex for a promotion or a raise. Or, in some cases, the employee is given an option – have sex with me if you don’t want to get fired.
If that’s what happened to you or if you quit because you couldn’t take it anymore, you should contact a tough sexual harassment lawyer right away. You are entitled to file a sexual discrimination complaint with the WV Human Rights Commission or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If a settlement agreement cannot be reached, you may have to file a lawsuit against your employer.
If your employer fires you after filing a complaint, this is viewed as retaliation and they won’t be able to invoke the at will principle. Notify your lawyer immediately so they can file a wrongful termination charge in addition to the initial complaint. At the same time, a business owner cannot fire any employee participating in the investigation of a complaint made by someone else.