Numerous federal and West Virginia state statutes establish certain rights for employees. For example, businesses should not allow sexual harassment, discriminate against those with medical issues or violate safety standards for the industry in which they operate.
Unfortunately, simply creating employment and workplace regulations does not guarantee the safety of individual workers on the job nor their protection from company misconduct. Sometimes, workers try to address issues, only to have the company where they work ignore them. They may then choose to take legal action against the organization to enforce their rights to a discrimination-free workplace or ensure that the company complies with safety regulations.
Can a business fire a worker for filing a lawsuit against the company?
Federal law prohibits retaliation
Technically, federal law is very clear about the rights of workers to hold companies accountable. Businesses cannot fire, demote or otherwise punish an employee making use of their basic workplace protections. Doing so constitutes retaliation and could be an actionable violation of employment laws.
Unfortunately, a company that ignores safety statutes or sexual harassment laws could very likely choose to ignore retaliation laws as well. A large portion of worker lawsuits related to discrimination and harassment include allegations of retaliation when employees assert their rights. Workers may lose their jobs or face other consequences for sticking up for themselves in legally-protected ways. However, if they document what the company does, that misconduct may only serve to strengthen their legal position when taking action against the employer.
Consider a potential class-action lawsuit filed in West Virginia against a medical employer. A former worker who had a job as a nursing assistant filed a lawsuit as the named plaintiff in a case that affects most of the workers at the company. The allegations include deducting half an hour from workers’ paychecks for an unpaid meal break despite regularly interrupting worker breaks and requiring them to be on call during the break.
Other potential plaintiffs may have decided to not include their names in the initial lawsuit, likely because they fear that their employer could take punitive actions against them for asserting their rights. The most effective way for an employee to protect themselves against unfair retaliation is to know about their rights. They should document the company’s infractions and the attempts that they make to address the issue.
Ultimately, learning about the rules against employer retaliation, and seeking legal guidance accordingly, may help employees in the pursuit of a fair and safe work environment.