Court Decision Marks Important Change in Employment Law in West Virginia

The area of employment law is vast, and is often complicated and drawn out. As a result, lawyers who regularly practice in this field of law try to take advantage of every available nuance and piece of legal information at their disposal in order to benefit their clients, and make litigating an employment claim a smoother process for everyone involved.

Previously, some attorneys tried to achieve this by counseling their clients to include an arbitration clause in many of their agreements. While this advice was undoubtedly well-intended, there was a question about how it would play out as a practical matter in the West Virginia court system. As a recent article published by Legal Newsline reports, a number of decisions made by the West Virginia Supreme Court as of late will likely give new meaning to arbitration clauses.

Court Decisions

According to the article mentioned above, recent decisions by the West Virginia Supreme reflect the idea that, if an arbitration clause is carefully drafted within an agreement that otherwise complies with case law on the subject, courts are more likely to enforce the arbitration clause than they did previously. As a rule, parties must meet basic principles of contract law in drawing up the agreement, which generally include offer, acceptance, consideration, and performance.

The West Virginia Supreme Court took a position against plaintiffs in three separate cases since November 2013, ruling in favor of enforcing arbitration agreements in each case. In one case, the Court decided that, if a plaintiff assented to arbitration when she read an employee handbook that outlined the parameters of an internal dispute resolution program, and signed an acknowledgment form, the plaintiff was bound to the contract’s terms. In another case concerning a residential mortgage loan, the Court upheld an arbitration agreement signed prior to the enactment of a law which would have prevented it. In the third case, the Court upheld the terms of a contract where employees were offered participation in a short-term incentive program if they signed arbitration agreements.

Some legal authorities are saying these cases are an important change in West Virginia employment law, since the Court declined to enforce arbitration agreements in similar situations for the last several years. In light of these decisions, some speculate that many more attorneys will counsel their clients to accept arbitration agreements. When properly executed and enforced, such agreements will greatly benefit employers as a cheaper and more efficient process than taking their claims through the courts. In addition, it provides a benefit to employees in avoiding potentially expensive legal fees.

Employment Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know is fighting an employment claim, or is simply looking for advice in this area of law, contact the experienced attorneys at Hendrickson & Long, PLLC today to schedule a consultation to discuss your matter. Our office is located in Charleston, West Virginia.