West Virginia Employee Handbooks laws & HR compliance analysis

West Virginia Employee Handbooks: What you need to know

Employee handbooks should be drafted according to the particular needs of each individual workplace and in accordance with the requirements of state and federal law. Employers should try to develop policies and procedures that reflect the company's size, employee needs, and company philosophy. Employers should have an attorney familiar with state labor and employment laws review their handbooks for legal accuracy. Outdated or erroneous policies can be just as dangerous as not having policies at all.
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Employers should exercise caution when developing handbooks and related policy statements. To avoid implied contract claims, employers should issue only general statements of policy in employee handbooks and should always include an explicit statement reserving the right to alter, amend, or change any handbook policy at any time and for any reason.
West Virginia is an “employment-at-will” state. Therefore, an employer may generally terminate an employment relationship at any time and for any reason unless a collective bargaining agreement, employment contract, existing law, or recognized public policy provides otherwise.
Despite a strong presumption in favor of the at-will standard, the West Virginia courts have indicated that definite statements and/or policies, as opposed to general statements, contained in an employee handbook that limit an employer's right to discharge employees may create an implied contract of employment.
For instance, a detailed and comprehensive progressive discipline policy or promises not to discharge employees except for specified reasons may create an implied contract (Younker v. Eastern Associated Coal Corp., 591 S.E.2d 254 (W.Va.2003)).

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