In the last two weeks, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed three employment-related bills that will significantly improve the climate for employers to do business in West Virginia. All three align West Virginia law with corresponding law in most other jurisdictions.
First, and SB318 amend the Wage Payment and Collection Act. With the passage of SB12, gone is the requirement that employers pay discharged employees within four business days of their termination (formerly the 72-hour rule). Effective June 11, 2015, employers must pay discharged employees all wages due and owing on or before the next regular payday on which the wages would otherwise be due and payable. Bonuses and other fringe benefits of employment are not considered part of the compensation to be paid within that time frame.
Additionally, SB12, which modifies West Virginia Code §21-5-4, also deems final paychecks paid upon mailing rather than upon receipt. In addition, the new law notes that liquidated damages available under the Act for untimely payment of wages are not available to employees who contend they were misclassified as exempt from overtime under state and federal wage and hour laws.
Finally, the legislation redefines “wages” to include “at least all wages earned up to and including the twelfth day immediately preceding the regular payday,” which gives employers 12 days instead of five to account for overtime pay, for instance, during a payroll period. This aligns West Virginia with other states and provides significant administrative relief for payroll functions.
SB318, which amends West Virginia Code §21-5-3, requires employers to pay wages to employees twice a month, instead of bi-weekly. In addition, that new law allows for 19 days between settlements instead of two weeks. Thus, employers that pay on the 15th and last days of each month, for example, comply with West Virginia law without seeking an exception from the Commissioner of Labor. This new legislation is effective June 12, 2015.
Finally, as explained in our recent blog, SB344 abolishes the “malice exception to the duty to mitigate damages in employment discrimination and wrongful discharge litigation. Coupled with SB421, which caps punitive damages at the greater of $500,000.00 or four times the amount of compensatory damages, the new laws significantly limit the potential damages in employment lawsuits and correct years of decisions that incorrectly analyze the economic loss damages available in these types of cases.
This article was authored by Erin Elizabeth Magee, Jackson Kelly PLLC. For more information on the author, click here.