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Employed At Will? What That Can Mean for Your Rights Against Termination

Jan. 15, 2015

West Virginia at-will employees have some limited protection from being wrongfully terminated by their employer. Aside from the West Virginia Code 6C-1-1 et seq. also known as the "whistle-blower law" passed by our state legislature, employer's rights to terminate at-will employees are tempered when their termination violates some substantial public policy.

Many employees will find themselves in positions that are considered at-will employment at some point in their working careers. One case, Harless v. First National Bank, addressed the specific issue of at-will employment, and if an employee can recover damages against their employer when discharged. In this case, the plaintiff alleged he was fired for reasons related to him requiring his employer (defendant) to comply with state and federal consumer protection laws. Due to this reasoning, the former employee believed the action of the employer in firing him was "intentional, malicious, and outrageous conduct."

This case made its way to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. The Court's decision is important to make note of. Yes, the employee was an at-will employee. However, the employer had a motivation for discharging the employee that was against public policy principles. If an employer terminates an employee in a way that violates public policy principle, the employer can be found liable to the employee for damages. These damages can include recovery for the emotional disturbances that can occur as a result of being unjustly terminated.

Why is this case important to discuss? West Virginia has a complex body of case law that may provide you or your loved one some protection. It is vital to know your rights as an employee, and to know that even if you are an at-will employee, there are still protections afforded to you by the law. It is best to consult an attorney if you have questions about the reasoning behind your termination.

We have successfully fought and won these exact kinds of cases. Let us get a similar result for you. If you are in need of assistance with termination issues or feel you may have been wrongfully terminated, contact Wolfe Law Office for a free consultation at 304-245-9097.


Harless v. First Nat'l Bank, 162 W. Va. 116

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.