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Harassment and Discrimination Attorneys

West Virginia Human Rights Act

Understanding the West Virginia Human Rights Act: Protecting Equality and Dignity

In a world where equality and human dignity stand at the forefront of social progress, legislative measures play a pivotal role in safeguarding these fundamental principles. Among such legislation is the West Virginia Human Rights Act, a crucial tool for protecting West Virginians from discrimination.

Prohibition of Discrimination

Enacted during the Civil Rights Movement in 1961, the West Virginia Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in various spheres of public life, aiming to eliminate barriers that hinder people from fully participating in society. Specifically, the West Virginia Human Rights Act declared it a public policy to “provide all of its citizens equal opportunity for employment, equal access to places of public accommodations, and equal opportunity in the sale, purchase, lease, rental and financing of housing accommodations or real property.” W. Va. Code  § 16B-11-1.  By prohibiting discrimination in these areas based upon race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, age, blindness, or disability, the West Virginia Human Rights Act serves as a shield against prejudice and injustice.

Legal Action to Protect Your Rights

The West Virginia Human Rights Act also establishes mechanisms for individuals who believe they have been discriminated against to seek redress. First, the Act established the West Virginia Human Rights Commission, where those who have been subjected to illegal discrimination may file an administrative claim to seek reinstatement to their job and/or limited monetary damages, such as lost pay resulting from the employer’s discrimination. The Human Rights Commission may also order the employer to take measures to prevent future discrimination such as a change its policies or training for its management and other employees.

The West Virginia Human Rights Act also permits victims of discrimination to file a civil lawsuit against those who discriminate. A Plaintiff who prevails in such a lawsuit may be awarded reinstatement to their job, past lost wages (i.e., “back pay”), lost future wages (i.e., “front pay”), general damages for loss of dignity, embarrassment, humiliation, aggravation, and emotional distress. Additionally, the Court may order the discriminator to pay punitive damages, which are designed to advance the objectives of the Act by punishing illegal discrimination and deterring future discrimination by the Defendant and others in a position to engage in illegal discrimination.

Encouraging Opposition to Discrimination – Anti-Retaliation and Fee Shifting

To ensure that illegal discrimination in West Virginia is reported and eradicated, the West Virginia Human Rights Act also contains provisions that encourage individuals to expose and oppose illegal discrimination by reporting it, advocating against it, and taking legal action. For instance, the West Virginia Human Rights Act contains anti-retaliation provisions that outlaw acts of retaliation for opposing discrimination or asserting rights under the Act. Those who are subjected to illegal retaliation may also file an administrative claim or a civil lawsuit against the retaliator. Those who oppose illegal discrimination are protected, even if they are not the victim of the discrimination, but rather are reporting or opposing discrimination committed against others.

What’s more, the West Virginia Human Rights Act also contains a “fee-shifting” provision that allows a Court to award a victim of discrimination or retaliation their attorney fees and costs expended to prevail in an administrative claim before the Human Rights Commission or a civil lawsuit, further encouraging individuals to bring legal actions to eradicate such illegal acts even where the damages that could be awarded are likely to be only nominal.

Addair Entsminger PLLC Can Protect Your Rights

The attorneys at Addair Entsminger are highly skilled and experienced in using the West Virginia Human Rights Act to redress illegal discrimination and retaliation in West Virginia, especially in the context of employment discrimination and retaliation. Specifically, Addair Entsminger’s attorneys have represented, in actions before administrative agencies and in courts of law, countless West Virginia workers who have been the victims of illegal discrimination and retaliation by their employers. Whether it involves negotiating a settlement or taking the matter to court, we prepare to fight for the best possible outcome for our clients. Our dedication to fight for our clients has resulted in the successful recovery of millions of dollars for our clients in employment discrimination and retaliation cases involving violations of the West Virginia Human Rights Act.

If you have been the victim of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace, our dedicated team of attorneys is ready to stand by your side and advocate for your rights every step of the way. Call (304) 881-0411 immediately or click here to schedule a confidential consultation. Our attorneys will provide you with the guidance and support needed to pursue legal action and hold the responsible parties accountable.