Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court preliminarily enjoining the West Virginia Paycheck Protection Act, passed by the Legislature in 2021, from taking effect, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion when it granted Respondents injunctive relief.Respondents - labor unions, employee associations, and individual members of such groups - sought to enjoin the enforcement of the Act, which prohibits state employers from continuing to deduct union dues and employee association membership fees from public employees' wages. The circuit court concluded that the law violated certain of Respondents' constitutional rights and that its enforcement would irreparably harm them. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion when it did not deny injunctive relief to Respondents. View "Justice v. W. Va. AFL-CIO" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the circuit court entered under the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act, W. Va. Code 23-5-1 to -18 (the WPCA), holding that the court acted within its discretion, and there was otherwise no error.Employer in this case made withholdings from the wages of its employees that met the definition of an assignment set forth under the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act, W. Va. Code 23-5-1 to -18 (the WPCA). Employer, however, never procured from its employees a writing that complied with the conditions set forth in the WPCA. Employees filed a class-action suit to recoup Employer's withholdings. The circuit court entered an orders (1) finding Employer liable for violating the WPCA, and (2) awarding Employees the wages improperly taken from their paychecks, liquidated damages, attorney's fees, and costs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion or err in its orders. View "Fairmont Tool, Inc. v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court reversing the decision of a West Virginia State Police Grievance System hearing officer and ordering the reinstatement of Respondent to his employment as a state trooper, holding that the circuit court impermissibly substituted its judgment for that of the hearing examiner.The hearing examiner concluded that Respondent had committed conduct unbecoming of a state trooper and had used excessive force, among other things, and that the preponderance of the evidence supported the decision to terminate Respondent's employment. The circuit court reversed, concluding that the hearing examiner's decision was clearly wrong and erroneous as a matter of law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court impermissibly substituted its judgment for that of the hearing examiner, who was the factfinder in this manner; and (2) the hearing examiner's account of the evidence was plausible in light of the entire record. View "W. Va. State Police v. Walker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a county solid waste authority has no power to enter into a fixed-term employment contract with a non-civil service employee.In 2008, The Nicholas County Solid Waste Authority (NCSWA) entered into an employment contract with employee Larry Bradford under which Bradford was to continue in his position for a fixed term. In 2014, the West Virginia Solid Waste Management Board (WVSWMB) exercised its statutory power of supersedure over the NCSWA. The next day, the WVSWMB terminated Bradford's employment. Bradford brought suit, asserting causes of action for violation of the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act and for breach of contract. After five years of litigation, the parties jointly moved the circuit court to certify questions to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court accepted one certified question, which rendered the remaining three questions moot, answering that a county solid waste authority has no authority to enter into a fixed-term employment contract with a non-civil service employee and that any such contract is unenforceable and void as a matter of law. View "Bradford v. W. Va. Solid Waste Management Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the order of the circuit court affirming the judgment of the Board of Review affirming the decision of a Labor Dispute Tribunal that certain union members employed at a production plant (Claimants) were not disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits, holding that the lower tribunals erred.In 2012, representatives of Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood, LLC and United Steelworkers Local 5668, the union representing the majority of Constellium's employees, met to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. When the parties could not come to terms Claimants went on strike. After the strike ended, Claimants applied for unemployment compensation benefits. The Tribunal decided that Claimants were not disqualified for benefits under W. Va. Code 21A-6-3(4), the labor dispute provision. The Board and circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the lower tribunals erred in holding that Claimants were not disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits under the labor dispute provision. View "Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood, LLC, v. Cooper" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the order of the circuit court concluding that a "subsistence allowance" provided by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) to Natural Resources Police Officers is "compensation" for purposes of the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), holding that the allowance was not compensation.Beginning in 1997, DNR reported the payments of the subsistence allowances to the Consolidated Public Retirement Board as part of the officers' "compensation," which is a key component in calculating the officers' retirement annuities under PERS. In 2014, the Board determined that the subsistence allowance was not compensation and that the error had led to the miscalculation of benefits paid to retired officers. Respondents - current and retired officers and their widowers and widows - appealed and requested declaratory relief with the Board, alleging that the Board's determination violated their vested pension rights. The Board denied relief, but the circuit court reversed. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the subsistence allowance was not compensation under PERS; and (2) the Board may not recover the excess retirement benefits already paid due to the error in treating the allowance as PERS compensation. View "W. Va. Consolidated Public Retirement Board v. Clark" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Activate Healthcare, LLC under W. Va. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that Plaintiff's factual allegations against Activate were insufficient to establish a claim of aiding and abetting under the West Virginia Human Rights Act.Plaintiff was working at Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood, LLC when she requested a change in her duties to accommodate her medical condition. Plaintiff was directed to Activate, Constellium's on-site medical provider, for a physical activity report, but Activate issued more than one report. Constellium terminated Plaintiff based on one of the reports and later returned to work. After Plaintiff unsuccessfully filed a grievance seeking lost wages during her break in employment she sued Constellium, Activate, and other defendants, alleging retaliation and discrimination. The circuit court dismissed Plaintiff's aiding and abetting claim against Activate for failure to state a claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that nothing in the complaint could be construed to establish the elements of an aiding and abetting claim. View "Boone vs. Activate Healthcare, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the rulings of the circuit court determining that the civil provisions of the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act (WPCA), W. Va. Code 21-5-3, had not been recognized by the Supreme Court as a substantial public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine, holding that the circuit court did not err.Plaintiff brought a retaliatory discharge claim against Defendants after he was terminated from his employment. The circuit court entered partial summary judgment for Defendants as to Plaintiff's claims for the tort of outrage and retaliatory discharge. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the undisputed facts supported the circuit court's order granting partial summary judgment. View "Greaser v. Hinkle" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of the West Virginia University Board of Governors (WVU BOG) on Plaintiff's claims alleging that the West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVUIT) breached its agreement to pay him a supplementary salary for serving as director of a research center, holding that summary judgment was improper on Plaintiff's claim brought under the West Virginia Wage Payment Collection Act (WPCA), W. Va. Code 21-5-1 through 18.Plaintiff, a professor at WVUIT, brought this action against WVU BOG, which manages the educational operations of WVUIT, bringing a common law claim for breach of contract, alternative equitable claims of quantum merit and unjust enrichment, and a statutory cause of action under WPCA. WVU BOG, a state agency, moved for summary judgment, invoking the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The circuit court granted summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) sovereign immunity did not bar Plaintiff's claims under the WPCA, and genuine issues of disputed fact existed as to whether WVU BOG violated the WPCA; and (2) summary judgment was properly granted on the remaining claims. View "Davari v. West Virginia University Board of Governors" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court calculating seniority for purposes of a reduction in force among school service personnel who were originally hired by a county board of education as an aide and then subsequently obtained certification as an early childhood classroom assistant teacher (ECCAT), holding that the circuit court's decision was contrary to law.On appeal, the Webster County Board of Education (Webster BOE) argued that, contrary to the conclusion of the circuit court, seniority for purposes of a reduction in the number of service personnel who are certified as ECCATs should be calculated solely based on the accumulated amount of ECCAT seniority possessed by the employees. Respondents, Webster BOE employees, argued that the circuit court correctly calculated their ECCAT seniority based upon their accumulated seniority as aides. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court's decision that aide seniority that aide seniority is used to determine the rank of service personnel subject to a reduction in force in the ECCAT class title was contrary to law. View "Webster County Board of Education v. Davis" on Justia Law