Understanding the facts about retaliation in West Virginia workplaces

When workers report or otherwise participate in discrimination hearings, state law prohibits their employers from taking retaliatory actions against them.

Even if they recognize that it is the right thing to do, it can be difficult for people in West Virginia, and elsewhere, to speak out about injustices in the workplace. This is the case whether they are the victims, or they have witnessed others' rights being violated. For many, their primary concern when determining how to address such violations is whether or not doing so might affect their standings with their employers. Therefore, in order to help protect themselves, it is important for workers to understand their rights and protections.

What is retaliation?

For employment-related purposes, any adverse action that is taken in response to workers' opposition of employment law violations or other illegal actions or their participation in discrimination claim proceedings. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, some such prohibited activities include the following:

  • Refusing to hire
  • Denying a promotion
  • Terminating employment
  • Making threats or civil or criminal complaints
  • Giving unfounded negative reviews or references
  • Increasing monitoring of a worker

While justified negative remarks regarding employees' performance and petty slights are not strictly barred, unfounded or otherwise wrongful discipline may be considered retaliation.

When are adverse actions prohibited?

State law strictly prohibits any type of retaliation for whistleblowing in West Virginia workplaces. Thus, employers are not permitted to take any adverse action against workers because they disagree with practices that are disallowed under The West Virginia Human Rights Act. The state's whistleblower protections also extend to those who testify or otherwise participate in discrimination claim investigations and hearings.

Reporting retaliation

If people suspect they have been retaliated against, they may consider speaking with their supervisors or companies' human resources department to try to understand the reasoning for the actions. In the event that they do not receive an adequate response or are unable to resolve the matter with their employers directly, workers may consider filing a formal complaint with the West Virginia Human Rights Commission or the EEOC.

When they fall victim to workplace retaliation as a result of blowing the whistle on illegal activities, West Virginia workers often feel like there is nowhere to turn. The process of filing such claims may be complicated and met with opposition from their employers. Therefore, those who are involved in discrimination claims or who feel their rights may have been violated by retaliation or some other violation may benefit from obtaining legal counsel. An attorney may explain their rights and help protect their interests throughout the legal process.