West Virginia Governor Jim Justice is relaxing the state’s stay-at-home order to a “Safer-At-Home” mandate that loosens restrictions set in March to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Safer-At-Home took effect on May 4 and key changes from the more stringent restrictions allow barbershops as well as hair and nail salons to re-open and restaurants to begin outdoor service for outdoor dining. Everyone, especially the elderly, are still “strongly encourage” to remain home, although that language has stepped down from being “directed” to do so.
While a lot of businesses shuttered or made drastic decisions to meet demands or stay in operation in spite of the government-ordered shutdown, employees may have experienced a violation of their rights in turn. Whether you were an “essential” employee or not, your employment rights were not suspended for any period of time during the COVID-19 lockdown or right now as the state begins to relax restrictions.
Whether you were fully employed or lost employment during while the stay-at-home order was in effect, now’s the time to take stock of your experiences at work. Did something happen that seemed out of place, even with the lockdown in effect? Did it seem like an employer tried to use circumstances surrounding the pandemic as an excuse to do something that seemed wrong?
Let’s run through some common employment law violations and how they might have occurred during the COVID-19 lockdown. If you think your employment rights were violated, time is essential! Reach out to an employment lawyer as soon as possible because you may have as few as 180 days to file a valid claim.
Wage & Overtime Law
The minimum wage rate in West Virginia is $8.75 per hour. Chances are if you are making this rate, you are eligible for overtime pay. Non-exempt employees receive overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times their normal rate for any hours worked beyond 40 in a week, as provided by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
If you were working an essential job, chances are you were intensely working for your whole shift on most days. If your employer asked you to do tasks before or after your scheduled hours and failed to compensate you accordingly, you are entitled to that pay.
Unpaid overtime is collectible for up to three years from the date on which the pay was earned. This means that if you believe you are entitled to unpaid overtime, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible to fight for your fair and just compensation.
Was Your Employment Terminated?
If your employment was terminated or reduced at any time during the COVID-19 lockdown, your employer was within his or her rights to do so only as long as their decision was purely based on business considerations. If you think you were fired or placed on unpaid leave due to discrimination or because you spoke up about an unsafe or illegal employment practices, you might have grounds for a wrongful termination case.
Remember: Discrimination occurs whenever someone is singled out for mistreatment or adverse employment actions because of their association with a protected class. Under no circumstances is discrimination of this kind legal.
Protected classes in West Virginia include the following:
- Skin Color
- Age (40 or older)
- National Origin
- Sex (which includes pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions)
- Disability status (physical or mental)
- Citizenship Status
- Genetic Information
- AIDS/HIV status
- Off-Duty Tobacco Use
If you believe your termination or reduction in employment was a result of one of these factors, you may be a victim of discrimination, and your employer may have tried to use the COVID-19 lockdown to conceal their intentions.
Similarly, you may have been targeted because you spoke up about an illegal business practice or unsafe working conditions, especially if there was a lack of necessary personal protection equipment (PPE). Punishing an employee for reasons such as these may be grounds for a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
If you think your employment rights were violated during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, reach out to an experienced employment law attorney for help. Consult with one of ours at the Hoosier Law Firm if you need support for your claim.
Contact us online or by calling (800) 455-8721 to arrange a free initial consultation with an attorney who can help you seek fair and just compensation through legal action.