Reports by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) state that over 61,000 discrimination charges were filed with the department in 2021. This statistic indicates that employee lawsuits are possible no matter how you run your business and can result in months-long litigation and sizeable financial settlements. Learn how a West Virginia employment lawyer can assist you with creating preventative policies and defend you if any employee lawsuits come your way.
The Current Employment Law Landscape
There are several employment laws affecting your business today, and keeping track of them all and adhering to each can be challenging. The most relevant federal and state laws include the following.
- FLSA: The Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal law for public and private employers, prescribes wage and overtime pay standards. It also covers the minimum wage requirements and the pay rate for working overtime for specific employees. In addition, the act provides protections for children who work.
- FMLA: Businesses with 50 or more employees must follow the Family and Medical Leave Act. This employment act requires you to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave to employees who meet eligibility requirements. This protection covers employees during the birth of a child, an adoption, medical treatment for a serious illness, or caring for a sick child, spouse, or parent.
- Title VII and the ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act bans and prohibits discrimination against those individuals with disabilities, protecting their civil rights. The ADA prohibits discrimination in employment, education, healthcare, housing, and more.
- WVHRA: The West Virginia Human Rights Acts prohibits protected class discrimination and prohibits retaliation for protected activities. As a matter of public policy, the West Virginia Human Rights Act extends employee rights and protections to all state citizens, providing access to equal employment and more under West Virginia law.
- WVWPCA: Similar to the FLSA, the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act governs actions surrounding wage payments, collection issues (e.g., unpaid overtime), specific employers’ requirements to post wage bonds, and more.
In addition to those above, West Virginia businesses must comply with other established regulations. These include West Virginia labor laws, as well as Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and West Virginia Human Rights Commission regulations.
As you can see, the list of employment laws and regulations you must know and adhere to daily is extensive and the legal landscape is constantly shifting. A West Virginia employment attorney, knowledgeable on the laws and regulations that apply to your business, can help keep you and your business in compliance. We can guide you to implement policies and practices that mitigate against such risk and respond to employment issues as they arise in real time.
Employment Decisions You Will Likely Make
As a business owner or part of a management team, there are certain employment decisions you will likely have to make at some point. Many of these decisions require strict adherence to laws and regulations and can become problematic if you are unaware of how to proceed. By engaging with a West Virginia employment lawyer, you can gain advice on several aspects of business ownership and management, including the following.
Policies and Handbooks
Policies and handbooks are crucial because they clearly define employee rights and expectations and can be used as legal documents if you face a lawsuit. These important documents include everything from a code of conduct to benefits and compensation guidelines.
Interviewing and Onboarding
Various laws and regulations, including ADA and WVHRA, impact the method and scope of applicant interviews and screenings. There are also drug testing and background check limitations, which include any use of third-party vendors. Reporting laws also factor prominently into how you go about the interviewing and onboarding of new employees.
New Job Classification
Properly classifying a new position involves defining the new role’s scope, responsibilities, and tax classification. These actions need careful consideration by all employers.
Employment laws, including the FLSA and the WVWPCA, impose stiff penalties for position misclassification and can expose employers, even those acting in good faith, to heavy fines and litigation exposure.
Working with a West Virginia employment law attorney on the aspects of a new position can minimize confusion about the role and help your business avoid fines and penalties from the IRS related to misclassified employees.
If your company faces a claim of discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation, or any other claim an employee may level against your company, you risk being forced into litigation. These claims include those filed under West Virginia state law, in federal court, before the WVHRC and EEOC, and at the administrative level, such as the Board of Review for unemployment claims.
Avoiding such litigation exposure is essential, as these employment law cases can be drawn out and costly. Our employment law attorneys can examine the claim and advise you on the potential legal consequences while outlining a response strategy. We can also advise on practices that will reduce the likelihood and validity of these claims.
Contracts are a natural part of business, including those with contract employees and employment agencies. An experienced attorney can help draft these necessary contracts to comply with local, state, and federal regulations.
Separation of Employment
If you have to terminate an employee but are worried about them suing, you can speak with an employment attorney to review your decision. An experienced West Virginia employment lawyer will be able to advise you on the legality of the firing and how to minimize the risk of a lawsuit.
What to Do if You Receive Notice of a Lawsuit or EEOC/WVHRC Investigation
If you receive notice that your employee is suing you or that there has been a filing of a claim with the EEOC or WVHRC, you should seek legal advice from a knowledgeable employment law attorney immediately. They can examine the case details and advise you on the claim’s validity, the likely outcomes of the suit, and a response strategy.
Some of the most common claims that employees make against their employer include:
- Discrimination (e.g., due to gender, sex, age, race, national origin, religion, etc.)
- Wrongful termination
- Retaliation (e.g., filed by a whistleblower or other protected activity)
- Sexual harassment
- Hostile work environment (predicated upon a protected class or activity)
- Salary or wage violation
- Worker’s compensation claim denial
- Work-related accident and personal injury due to employer negligence
- Violation of regulations under the EEOC, WVHRC, or other employment law
A skilled and knowledgeable West Virginia employment attorney can try to resolve a case or claim before it proceeds to litigation. Often, the timing of such investigations is critical, and you need as much time as possible to examine all critical areas relating to the claim thoroughly.
How A West Virginia Employment Law Attorney Helps in a Lawsuit
Laws and regulations are implemented to protect employers and employees. Knowing when to hire an attorney for your business is essential. Working with legal counsel to develop your company policies, handbooks, HR documentation, and contracts can help you avoid employee complaints. Still, not all business owners and managers start this way. As such, lawsuits are an ongoing risk.
A West Virginia employment law attorney can view your employment documentation free from bias, utilizing knowledge of state and federal laws and regulations to analyze your case. From there, they will devise the right strategy to protect your company and provide you with legal options.
Our experienced attorneys at the Orndorff Mowen law office can represent employers and management in legal matters involving any of the following:
- Sexual harassment allegations
- Race, age, disability, and religious discrimination
- Claims of a hostile work environment
- Unlawful termination
- Retaliatory discharge
We bring years of experience representing clients in both state and federal court, as well as defending clients before the EEOC and HRC. Our West Virginia attorneys also handle various HR issues and wage and leave claims, including those arising under the FLSA, FMLA, ADA, WVWPCA, and state common law.
Tips for Avoiding Future Lawsuits
Start now to protect your business from excessive and unnecessary employee claims and lawsuits. Some ways to limit liability and avoid future lawsuits include:
- Gather and organize important information, including discussion notes, communications with employees, and other documentation to support your company’s position and actions should you encounter a lawsuit.
- Implement company policies to provide employees with instructions and procedures for various work-related legal issues and practices.
- Create and update your employee handbook so employees know your expectations and their rights regarding work-related activities.
- Draft strong legal contracts for employees, independent contractors, and third-party staffing or employment companies.
- Hire dedicated employment law attorneys to help you navigate the various laws and regulations and provide legal advice regarding litigation strategies.
The experienced lawyers with Orndorff Mowen can provide you with all your West Virginia employment law needs, including collaborating to employ litigation avoidance practices and policies in your business. We can also take legal action on your behalf if the need arises.
Safeguard Your Business with Prudent Legal Representation
Managing your business requires diligence, and the threat of employee lawsuits or claims can take up time and resources and affect your reputation. Safeguard your business starting now with the Orndorff Mowen law firm in West Virginia. As a boutique civil litigation firm, we concentrate on helping both large and small businesses avoid lawsuits and providing a strategic defense for clients involved in suits with current or former employees. Contact us today by calling 866-481-2765 or submitting our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation.