Huntington Legal Issues Blog

Collision with dump truck leads to personal injury, death

Regular maintenance is an absolute necessity for large trucks that traverse West Virginia roads. Companies that ignore regular upkeep and maintenance put everyone on the road at risk for serious personal injury, often for accidents that could have otherwise been avoided. A blown tire on a dump truck is believed to be responsible for a recent accident that caused at least one death.

The 36-year-old victim was driving with one passenger -- her 35-year-old sister -- in her vehicle at the time of the accident. While traveling along W.Va. 51, a dump truck loaded with gravel was headed in the opposite direction. One of the dump truck's front tires collapsed, causing the driver to lose control. The vehicle crossed the center line of traffic and struck the sisters' vehicle head on.

Can employees be fired for being gay?

Gay Americans have been encouraged in recent years to think that job discrimination against them was due to be outlawed. But the Trump Administration gave notice this past week that it believes discrimination against LGBT employees is legal.

The position of the Justice Department is that laws protecting workers from gender and racial bias should not be applied to gay and lesbian workers - that they can be fired just for being gay.

Personal injury claims for trucking accidents need special help

Large tractor-trailers are a necessary part of our consumer society. Whether transporting refrigerated food products or reusable merchandise, it is hard to imagine what West Virginia roads might look like without these vehicles. Important as they may be, tractor-trailers also pose serious danger and are sometimes the cause of personal injury in devastating accidents.

Although trucking accidents are often caused by distracted drivers, there are many other contributing factors. Many truck drivers stay behind the wheel for more consecutive hours than is allowed, some of whom rely on the influence of alcohol or drugs to continue. Even alert and responsible drivers can pose a threat behind the wheel if tractor-trailers are not properly maintained, causing malfunctions that lead to accidents.

Officer files suit over alleged pregnancy discrimination

Women in West Virginia often worry over when to tell their employer that they are pregnant. Although protected by federal law, pregnant women continue to face discrimination from their employers. An out-of-state police officer recently filed suit against her employer after what she says was repeated discriminatory behavior.

The female officer first discovered she was pregnant back in 2015. When her pregnancy had progressed to about 12 weeks, she requested that she be placed on some type of modified duty to accommodate her pregnancy. Although addressing walk-in complaints and record-keeping are apparently commonly given to injured officers, her request was denied and she remained on normal duty.

FMLA discrimination can be avoided during natural disasters

While recent natural disasters have left chaos and destruction across the country, those in West Virginia are not immune to the possibility that such a crisis will strike closer to home. When it does, they may need time off work to deal with the aftermath, whether that includes cleaning up, rebuilding or helping loved ones cope with the devastation. However, while some laws protect employees from discrimination when they need time off work under certain circumstances, they may not protect employees when it comes to meeting obligations during a natural disaster.

Employers may not be required to grant a leave of absence under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act when a worker requests time off to recover from floods, earthquakes or other disasters unless a physical or mental illness results from the disaster. For example, one may not necessarily be allowed time off to search for a lost loved one or clean up after a hurricane. However, FMLA may be invoked if, for example, one's parent requires assistance with a medical condition because of the flooding.

Discrimination and retaliation often go hand in hand

Disability is a protected class under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This protects disabled workers from discrimination. Unless the employee is unable to perform an essential job function, accommodations should be made to fit the worker's situation. It's not always the case, though. Sometimes a disabled employee will make a claim or request assistance, only to be denied and then punished for their action. All too often, discrimination claims become retaliation claims.

Bad faith insurance denies valid claims

In most cases, if a homeowner has a mortgage, the lender requires a basic amount of insurance coverage to protect the property. Many homeowners extend their protection, especially if they live in areas prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. While West Virginia does not see many damaging earthquakes, there are many other reasons why a homeowner may file a claim for property damage. The last thing a homeowner needs when facing such damage is to deal with bad faith insurance.

In some cases, an insurance company has the right to deny a claim. For example, most claims have time limits, and filing too late can result in a claim denial. Additionally, insurance companies have no obligation to pay a claim on a policy that has lapsed because its owner did not keep up with the premium payments.

Estee Lauder faces federal lawsuit alleging gender discrimination

Fathers of new babies in West Virginia might be interested in news that the federal agency responsible for administering and enforcing violations of civil rights laws in the workplace has filed a federal lawsuit against a manufacturer and marketer of prestige skincare products. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accuses Estee Lauder of gender discrimination. This follows a complaint by a father who was denied the same amount of time off after the birth of his child as is allowed for mothers who are employed by the company.

Reportedly, the EEOC filed the lawsuit on behalf of an Estee Lauder employee in another state who claims he advised the defendants of his child's birth and the intention to utilize his primary caregiver's leave of six weeks, based on company policy. However, the defendant informed him that biological fathers are only allocated two weeks leave as secondary caregivers. The lawsuit was filed in another state, seeking relief for all male employees of the defendant who have been subject to gender discrimination upon the birth of their children.

Discrimination: Woman fired during maternity leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act has helped West Virginia women have peace of mind to choose to have children and continue with a career. Even though they may not necessarily be paid for their leave, the federal laws allow women to remain at home after giving birth according to doctor's instructions. One woman in another state recently settled a discrimination complaint against her former employer for $60,000 after she was fired during maternity leave.

The woman was employed as a receptionist at a small baking company of about 450 employees when she alerted her employers to her required absence due to her upcoming childbirth. Reportedly, the woman submitted a disability claim prior to birth, estimating her needed time off of work as required by her physician. Additionally, the woman claims to have presented her human resources department with an official doctor's note after she gave birth. Her physician wanted her to remain out of work for eight weeks.

If managers know about discrimination, what should they do?

The law protects workers from certain kinds of discrimination. For example, a West Virginia boss would be breaking the law to treat someone differently based on race, disability or religion. Often employees endure unacceptable treatment from managers and other co-workers simply because of their sex. When employers notice this type of discrimination, do they have an obligation to deal with it?

In some states, failing to intervene in situations of sexual harassment can mean trouble for an employer. According to a recent federal case brought before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, turning a blind eye to sexual harassment perpetrated by an employee in a supervisory position may result in the employer facing the same liability as the one committing the offense. The situation involved an employee of Home Depot in another state who repeatedly reported being sexually harassed by a supervisor.

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