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West Virginia Employment Law: Food for Thought for Mountain State Employers

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Employers and those in labor management are often trained and experienced in the many federal laws governing labor and employment, but it is also wise to have current knowledge of the specific requirements of the states and municipalities in which you do business. Employers who are informed of potential and actual changes to West Virginia employment law will find themselves better positioned to prevent and defend against allegations of misconduct.

What Employers Should Know about West Virginia Employment Law

The most successful employee management strategies are proactive rather than reactive. Well-thought-out and meticulously drafted employment and operational policies are essential to creating a healthy and productive working environment. These documents and standards, when crafted properly, help employers convey company culture while protecting business assets.

Employers who wish to fortify a company by taking proactive measures in the development of policies and procedures must begin with a sound knowledge of WV employment law.

Considerations in WV Labor Management

Child labor laws and wage and hour requirements are just a couple of the areas in which WV employment law has specific requirements that differ from federal law. Employers who assume that compliance with federal laws and regulations is sufficient under state and local law may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Child labor laws in West Virginia differ slightly from their federal counterparts. For example, although 14- and 15-year old children may work in West Virginia, the hours worked are specifically regulated, and they are required to have a work permit. Further, there are numerous duties they cannot perform, including hazardous jobs and selling or serving alcohol.

The West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act is an example of specific wage legislation in West Virginia. The Act allows penalties of liquidated damages for employers that do not pay wages, or fail to do so timely. The Act also dictates that employers may not withhold wages for any reason, such as an employee's failure to return incidental employer property or otherwise comply with an employer requirement.

Other areas of WV employment law, such as unemployment, workers' compensation, discrimination and harassment, and more, are governed by specific state and municipal regulations as well.

Safety Standards in West Virginia Employment Law

Is your workplace ready for an unexpected safety inspection? If your employees were privately interviewed about safety standards, what would they say? A culture of safety is a valuable asset in WV labor management, and the costs of disregarding safety can be high.

West Virginia employers should be aware that Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors can do any of the following:

  • Enter your workplace without prior notification when appropriate credentials are produced;
  • Conduct an inspection and investigation of the place of employment and all pertinent areas, machines, and equipment; and
  • Interview employers or employees in private.

It is appropriate, and wise, to take action to address workplace safety issues before an inspection or employee complaint-or worse, an employee injury or death.

Federal and WV EEOC Protections

Federal and state laws prohibit employers from discrimination in employment decisions and harassment in the workplace. At the federal level, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces laws against discrimination and harassment.

EEOC claims can arise out of discrimination allegations brought by an employee or group of employees in a protected class. Protected classes are defined by federal law. West Virginia law further expands upon these protections, and many municipalities have additional requirements that employers must follow.

West Virginia Employment Law Impacts Your Business

Maintaining current knowledge and understanding of West Virginia employment law benefits employers, those who work in WV labor management, employees, and WV business in general. Nathanial A. Kuratomi of Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC can assist employers in planning policy, obtaining appropriate training, defending employment claims, and more. For a consultation, contact Nate using his online contact form or by calling (304) 523-2100 or (866) 617-4736 toll-free.

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