Understanding West Virginia Employment Law

From discrimination to on-the-job safety, federal laws protect workers in the United States. Some matters, such as minimum wage, are different from state to state, however. Here's an overview of employment laws in West Virginia.

Pre-Hiring Protection

Discrimination based on age, gender or race is illegal, even before a worker is hired. Ads can't ask that only men or single people apply. Interviewers can't ask about marital status or religion. While companies can't refuse to hire people with disabilities, they can ask applicants to perform certain tasks, such as bending or lifting, if the job legitimately requires it.

Minimum Wage

West Virginia's minimum wage is $7.25 for most workers. Tipped employees can be paid $2.13 an hour, although employers must make up the difference if workers don't bring in enough tips to reach minimum wage. Employees younger than 20 can be paid $5.15 an hour for their first 90 days at work. Workers who exceed 40 hours in a work week must be paid 1.5 times their usual rate for the additional hours.

Occupational Safety

Federal law requires that companies keep workers safe on the job, and this includes maintaining buildings and grounds free of hazards, making sure all equipment works as it should, and properly training all employees. Workers can report problems regarding training, procedures or facilities, and companies can't retaliate against them because of it.

Injuries At Work

All companies with three or more employees must carry workers' compensation insurance. Most businesses use the state's program, but some companies self-insure. The goal of the program is to help workers recover from on-the-job illnesses or injuries and get back to work. The insurance covers lost wages and medical and rehabilitation expenses.

Time Off

There's no law requiring that businesses offer time off for holidays, vacation or illnesses. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act requires unpaid sick leave, but only for companies that employ 50 or more workers. West Virginians aren't guaranteed pay for jury duty, but they can't be fired or demoted for serving.

Illegal Actions

Illegal harassment includes actions or comments that are so severe a reasonable person would object to them. It includes actions as well as words, such as crude decorations, drawings or photos, or sexist comments. Harassment can involve jokes or insults based on gender, national origin, race, age or disability. Those who suffer harassment can take legal action.

Firing or Quitting

Because West Virginia is an "at will" state, employees can quit for no reason or with no notice. Employers can likewise let workers go for any or no reason at any time. Final wages are due within 72 hours if an employee is fired, and immediately if the employee has given one pay period's notice. Otherwise, payment should be made on the next scheduled payday. Find out more about how to leave your job the right way.

Out Of Work

Unless someone is terminated for misconduct, people who are laid off or fired can draw unemployment while they look for another job. Those who were employed at companies with more than 20 workers can continue any health coverage they purchased while working, although they have to pay the full premiums.

Contact an Employment and Labor Lawyer

Employment law is a complicated topic, and this article is only an overview. Consult a local West Virginia labor attorney if you have a specific employment law question.

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