The denial of these rights to properly qualified persons by reason of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness, disability or familial status is contrary to the principles of freedom and equality of opportunity and is destructive to a free and democratic society.
(a) The term "person" means one or more individuals, partnerships, associations, organizations, corporations, labor organizations, cooperatives, legal representatives, trustees, trustees in bankruptcy, receivers and other organized groups of persons;
(b) The term "commission" means the West Virginia human rights commission;
(c) The term "director" means the executive director of the commission;
(d) The term "employer" means the state, or any political subdivision thereof, and any person employing twelve or more persons within the state for twenty or more calendar weeks in the calendar year in which the act of discrimination allegedly took place or the preceding calendar year: Provided, That such terms shall not be taken, understood or construed to include a private club;
(e) The term "employee" shall not include any individual employed by his or her parents, spouse or child;
(f) The term "labor organization" includes any organization which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of collective bargaining or of dealing with employers concerning grievances, terms or conditions of employment or for other mutual aid or protection in relation to employment;
(g) The term "employment agency" includes any person undertaking, with or without compensation, to procure, recruit, refer or place employees. A newspaper engaged in the activity of advertising in the normal course of its business shall not be deemed to be an employment agency;
(h) The term "discriminate" or "discrimination" means to exclude from, or fail or refuse to extend to, a person equal opportunities because of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness, disability or familial status and includes to separate or segregate;
(i) The term "unlawful discriminatory practices" includes only those practices specified in section nine of this article;
(j) The term "place of public accommodations" means any establishment or person, as defined herein, including the state, or any political or civil subdivision thereof, which offers its services, goods, facilities or accommodations to the general public, but shall not include any accommodations which are in their nature private. To the extent that any penitentiary, correctional facility, detention center, regional jail or county jail is a place of public accommodation, the rights, remedies and requirements provided by this article for any violation of subdivision (6), section nine of this article shall not apply to any person other than: (1) Any person employed at a penitentiary, correctional facility, detention center, regional jail or county jail; (2) any person employed by a law-enforcement agency; or (3) any person visiting any such employee or visiting any person detained in custody at such facility;
(k) The term "age" means the age of forty or above;
(l) For the purpose of this article, a person shall be considered to be blind only if his central visual acuity does not exceed twenty/two hundred in the better eye with correcting lenses, or if his visual acuity is greater than twenty/two hundred but is occasioned by a limitation in the fields of vision such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than twenty degrees; and
(m) The term "disability" means:
(1) A mental or physical impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities. The term "major life activities" includes functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning and working;
(2) A record of such impairment; or
(3) Being regarded as having such an impairment.
For the purposes of this article, this term does not include persons whose current use of or addiction to alcohol or drugs prevents such persons from performing the duties of the job in question or whose employment, by reason of such current alcohol or drug abuse, would constitute a direct threat to property or the safety of others.
Members of the commission shall be appointed for terms of three years commencing on the first day of July of the year of their appointments, except that the nine members first appointed hereunder shall be appointed for terms of from one to three years, respectively, so that the terms of three members of the commission will expire on the thirtieth day of June of each succeeding year thereafter. Upon the expiration of the initial terms, all subsequent appointments shall be for terms of three years each, except that appointments to fill vacancies shall be for the unexpired term thereof. Members shall be eligible for reappointment. Before assuming and performing any duties as a member of the commission, each commission member shall take and subscribe to the official oath prescribed by section 5, article IV of the constitution of West Virginia, which executed oath shall be filed in the office of the secretary of state.
The members of the commission shall not receive a salary, but each appointed member shall be paid fifty dollars per diem for actual time spent in the performance of duties under this article and shall be reimbursed for actual and necessary expenses incident to the performance of their duties, upon presentation of an itemized and sworn statement thereof. The foregoing per diem and reimbursement for actual and necessary expenses shall be paid from appropriations made by the Legislature to the commission.
The governor shall, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint an executive director to serve at his or her will and pleasure. The executive director shall serve as secretary of the commission. The executive director shall have a college degree. He or she shall be selected with particular reference to his or her training, experience and qualifications for the position and shall be paid an annual salary, payable in monthly installments, from any appropriations made therefor. The commission, upon recommendation of the executive director and in accordance with the requirements of the civil service law, may employ such personnel as may be necessary for the effective and orderly performance of the functions and services of the commission. The commission shall employ an administrative law judge who shall be an attorney, duly licensed to practice law in the state of West Virginia, for the conduct of the public hearings authorized in subdivision (3), subsection (d), section eight of this article.
The commission shall equip and maintain its offices at the state capitol and shall hold its annual organizational meeting there. The commission may hold other meetings during the year at such times and places within the state as may be found necessary and may maintain one branch office within the state as determined by the commission to be necessary for the effective and orderly performance of the functions and services of the commission. Any five members of the commission shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business. Minutes of its meetings shall be kept by its secretary.
The executive director and other commission personnel shall be reimbursed for necessary and reasonable travel and subsistence expenses actually incurred in the performance of commission services upon presentation of properly verified expense accounts as prescribed by law.
(a) To cooperate and work with federal, state and local government officers, units, activities and agencies in the promotion and attainment of more harmonious understanding and greater equality of rights between and among all racial, religious and ethnic groups in this state;
(b) To enlist the cooperation of racial, religious and ethnic units, community and civic organizations, industrial and labor organizations and other identifiable groups of the state in programs and campaigns devoted to the advancement of tolerance, understanding and the equal protection of the laws of all groups and peoples;
(c) To receive, investigate and pass upon complaints alleging discrimination in employment or places of public accommodations, because of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness or disability, and complaints alleging discrimination in the sale, purchase, lease, rental and financing of housing accommodations or real property because of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, blindness, disability or familial status, and to initiate its own consideration of any situations, circumstances or problems, including therein any racial, religious or ethnic group tensions, prejudice, disorder or discrimination reported or existing within the state relating to employment, places of public accommodations, housing accommodations and real property;
(d) To hold and conduct public and private hearings, in the county where the respondent resides or transacts business or where agreed to by the parties or where the acts complained of occurred, on complaints, matters and questions before the commission and, in connection therewith, relating to discrimination in employment or places of public accommodations, housing accommodations or real property and during the investigation of any formal complaint before the commission relating to employment, places of public accommodations, housing accommodations or real property to:
(1) Issue subpoenas and subpoenas duces tecum upon the approval of the executive director or the chairperson of the commission; administer oaths; take the testimony of any person under oath; and make reimbursement for travel and other reasonable and necessary expenses in connection with such attendance;
(2) Furnish copies of public hearing records to parties involved therein upon their payment of the reasonable costs thereof to the commission;
(3) Delegate to an administrative law judge who shall be an attorney, duly licensed to practice law in West Virginia, the power and authority to hold and conduct hearings, as herein provided, to determine all questions of fact and law presented during the hearing and to render a final decision on the merits of the complaint, subject to the review of the commission as hereinafter set forth.
Any respondent or complainant who shall feel aggrieved at any final action of an administrative law judge shall file a written notice of appeal with the commission by serving such notice on the executive director and upon all other parties within thirty days after receipt of the administrative law judge's decision. The commission shall limit its review upon such appeals to whether the administrative law judge's decision is:
(A) In conformity with the constitution and the laws of the state and the United States;
(B) Within the commission's statutory jurisdiction or authority;
(C) Made in accordance with procedures required by law or established by appropriate rules of the commission;
(D) Supported by substantial evidence on the whole record; or
(E) Not arbitrary, capricious or characterized by abuse of discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion.
(4) To enter into conciliation agreements and consent orders.
Each conciliation agreement shall include provisions requiring the respondent to refrain from the commission of unlawful discriminatory practices in the future and shall contain such further provisions as may be agreed upon by the commission and the respondent.
If the respondent and the commission agree upon conciliation terms, the commission shall serve upon the complainant a copy of the proposed conciliation agreement. If the complainant agrees to the terms of the agreement or fails to object to such terms within fifteen days after its service upon him or her, the commission shall issue an order embodying such conciliation agreement. If the complainant objects to the agreement, he or she shall serve a specification of his or her objections upon the commission within such period. Unless such objections are met or withdrawn within ten days after service thereof, the commission shall notice the complaint for hearing.
Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, the commission may, where it finds the terms of the conciliation agreement to be in the public interest, execute such agreement, and limit the hearing to the objections of the complainant.
If a conciliation agreement is entered into, the commission shall serve a copy of the order embodying such agreement upon all parties to the proceeding.
Not later than one year from the date of a conciliation agreement, the commission shall investigate whether the respondent is complying with the terms of such agreement. Upon a finding of noncompliance, the commission shall take appropriate action to assure compliance;
(5) To apply to the circuit court of the county where the respondent resides or transacts business for enforcement of any conciliation agreement or consent order by seeking specific performance of such agreement or consent order;
(6) To issue cease and desist orders against any person found, after a public hearing, to have violated the provisions of this article or the rules of the commission;
(7) To apply to the circuit court of the county where the respondent resides or transacts business for an order enforcing any lawful cease and desist order issued by the commission;
(e) To recommend to the governor and Legislature policies, procedures, practices and legislation in matters and questions affecting human rights;
(f) To delegate to its executive director such powers, duties and functions as may be necessary and expedient in carrying out the objectives and purposes of this article;
(g) To prepare a written report on its work, functions and services for each year ending on the thirtieth day of June and to deliver copies thereof to the governor on or before the first day of December next thereafter;
(h) To do all other acts and deeds necessary and proper to carry out and accomplish effectively the objects, functions and services contemplated by the provisions of this article, including the promulgation of legislative rules in accordance with the provisions of article three, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code, implementing the powers and authority hereby vested in the commission;
(i) To create such advisory agencies and conciliation councils, local, regional or statewide, as in its judgment will aid in effectuating the purposes of this article, to study the problems of discrimination in all or specific fields or instances of discrimination because of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness, disability or familial status; to foster, through community effort or otherwise, goodwill, cooperation and conciliation among the groups and elements of the population of this state, and to make recommendations to the commission for the development of policies and procedures, and for programs of formal and informal education, which the commission may recommend to the appropriate state agency. Such advisory agencies and conciliation councils shall be composed of representative citizens serving without pay. The commission may itself make the studies and perform the acts authorized by this subdivision. It may, by voluntary conferences with parties in interest, endeavor by conciliation and persuasion to eliminate discrimination in all the stated fields and to foster goodwill and cooperation among all elements of the population of the state;
(j) To accept contributions from any person to assist in the effectuation of the purposes of this section and to seek and enlist the cooperation of private, charitable, religious, labor, civic and benevolent organizations for the purposes of this section;
(k) To issue such publications and such results of investigation and research as in its judgment will tend to promote goodwill and minimize or eliminate discrimination: Provided, That the identity of the parties involved shall not be disclosed.
(1) For any employer to discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, hire, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges of employment if the individual is able and competent to perform the services required even if such individual is blind or disabled: Provided, That it shall not be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer to observe the provisions of any bona fide pension, retirement, group or employee insurance or welfare benefit plan or system not adopted as a subterfuge to evade the provisions of this subdivision;
(2) For any employer, employment agency or labor organization, prior to the employment or admission to membership, to: (A) Elicit any information or make or keep a record of or use any form of application or application blank containing questions or entries concerning the race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex or age of any applicant for employment or membership; (B) print or publish or cause to be printed or published any notice or advertisement relating to employment or membership indicating any preference, limitation, specifications or discrimination based upon race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability or age; or (C) deny or limit, through a quota system, employment or membership because of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness or disability;
(3) For any labor organization because of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness or disability of any individual to deny full and equal membership rights to any individual or otherwise to discriminate against such individual with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions or privileges of employment or any other matter, directly or indirectly, related to employment;
(4) For an employer, labor organization, employment agency or any joint labor-management committee controlling apprentice training programs to:
(A) Select individuals for an apprentice training program registered with the state of West Virginia on any basis other than their qualifications as determined by objective criteria which permit review;
(B) Discriminate against any individual with respect to his or her right to be admitted to or participate in a guidance program, an apprenticeship training program, on-the-job training program or other occupational training or retraining program;
(C) Discriminate against any individual in his or her pursuit of such programs or to discriminate against such a person in the terms, conditions or privileges of such programs;
(D) Print or circulate or cause to be printed or circulated any statement, advertisement or publication, or to use any form of application for these programs or to make any inquiry in connection with a program which expresses, directly or indirectly, discrimination or any intent to discriminate unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification;
(5) For any employment agency to fail or refuse to classify properly, refer for employment or otherwise to discriminate against any individual because of his or her race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness or disability;
(6) For any person being the owner, lessee, proprietor, manager, superintendent, agent or employee of any place of public accommodations to:
(A) Refuse, withhold from or deny to any individual because of his or her race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness or disability, either directly or indirectly, any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges or services of the place of public accommodations;
(B) Publish, circulate, issue, display, post or mail, either directly or indirectly, any written or printed communication, notice or advertisement to the effect that any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges or services of any such place shall be refused, withheld from or denied to any individual on account of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, blindness or disability, or that the patronage or custom thereat of any individual, belonging to or purporting to be of any particular race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex or age, or who is blind or disabled, is unwelcome, objectionable, not acceptable, undesired or not solicited; or
(7) For any person, employer, employment agency, labor organization, owner, real estate broker, real estate salesman or financial institution to:
(A) Engage in any form of threats or reprisal, or to engage in, or hire, or conspire with others to commit acts or activities of any nature, the purpose of which is to harass, degrade, embarrass or cause physical harm or economic loss or to aid, abet, incite, compel or coerce any person to engage in any of the unlawful discriminatory practices defined in this section;
(B) Willfully obstruct or prevent any person from complying with the provisions of this article, or to resist, prevent, impede or interfere with the commission or any of its members or representatives in the performance of a duty under this article; or
(C) Engage in any form of reprisal or otherwise discriminate against any person because he or she has opposed any practices or acts forbidden under this article or because he or she has filed a complaint, testified or assisted in any proceeding under this article.
After the filing of any complaint, or whenever there is reason to believe that an unlawful discriminatory practice has been committed, the commission shall make a prompt investigation in connection therewith.
If it shall be determined after such investigation that no probable cause exists for substantiating the allegations of the complaint, the commission shall, within ten days from such determination, cause to be issued and served upon the complainant written notice of such determination, and the said complainant or his attorney may, within ten days after such service, file with the commission a written request for a meeting with the commission to show probable cause for substantiating the allegations of the complaint. If it shall be determined after such investigation or meeting that probable cause exists for substantiating the allegations of the complaint, the commission shall immediately endeavor to eliminate the unlawful discriminatory practices complained of by conference, conciliation and persuasion. The members of the commission and its staff shall not disclose what has transpired in the course of such endeavors: Provided, That the commission may publish the facts in the case of any complaint which has been dismissed, and the terms of conciliation when the complaint has been adjusted, without disclosing the identity of the parties involved.
In case of failure so to eliminate such practice or in advance thereof, if in the judgment of the commission circumstances so warrant, the commission shall cause to be issued and served a written notice, together with a copy of such complaint as the same may have been amended, in the manner provided by law for the service of summons in civil actions, requiring the person, employer, labor organization, employment agency, owner, real estate broker, real estate salesman or financial institution named in such complaint, hereinafter referred to as respondent, to answer the charges of such complaint at a hearing before the commission in the county where the respondent resides or transacts business at a time and place to be specified in such notice: Provided, That said written notice be served at least thirty days prior to the time set for the hearing.
The case in support of the complaint shall be presented before the commission by one of its attorneys or agents. The respondent may file a written, verified answer to the complaint and appear at such hearing in person or otherwise, with or without counsel, and submit testimony and evidence. Except as provided in this article, all of the pertinent provisions of article five, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code shall apply to and govern the hearing and the administrative procedures in connection with and following such hearing, with like effect as if the provisions of said article five were set forth in extensor in this section.
If, after such hearing and consideration of all of the testimony, evidence and record in the case, the commission shall find that a respondent has engaged in or is engaging in any unlawful discriminatory practice as defined in this article, the commission shall issue and cause to be served on such respondent an order to cease and desist from such unlawful discriminatory practice and to take such affirmative action, including, but not limited to, hiring, reinstatement or upgrading of employees, with or without back pay, admission or restoration to membership in any respondent labor organization, or the admission to full and equal enjoyment of the services, goods, facilities, or accommodations offered by any respondent place of public accommodation, and the sale, purchase, lease, rental or financial assistance to any complainant otherwise qualified for the housing accommodation or real property, denied in violation of this article, as in the judgment of the commission, will effectuate the purposes of this article, and including a requirement for report of the manner of compliance. Such order shall be accompanied by findings of fact and conclusions of law as specified in section three, article five, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code.
If, after such hearing and consideration of all of the testimony, evidence and record in the case, the commission shall find that a respondent has not engaged in such unlawful discriminatory practice, the commission shall state its findings of fact and conclusions of law as aforesaid and shall issue and cause to be served on the complainant an order dismissing the said complaint as to such respondent.
A copy of its order shall be delivered in all cases by the commission to the complainant, the respondent, the attorney general and to such other public officers as the commission may deem proper. Any such order shall not be enforceable except as provided in section eleven of this article.
The appeal procedure contained in this subsection shall be the exclusive means of review, notwithstanding the provisions of chapter twenty-nine-a of this code: Provided, That such exclusive means of review shall not apply to any case wherein an appeal or a petition for enforcement of a cease and desist order has been filed with a circuit court of this state prior to the first day of April, one thousand nine hundred eighty-seven.
(b) In the event that any person shall fail to obey a final order of the commission within thirty days after receipt of the same, or, if applicable, within thirty days after a final order of the circuit court or the supreme court of appeals, a party or the commission may seek an order from the circuit court for its enforcement. Such proceedings shall be initiated by filing of a petition in said court, and served upon the respondent in the manner provided by law for the service of summons in civil actions; a hearing shall be held on such petition within sixty days of the date of service. The court may grant appropriate temporary relief, and shall make and enter upon the pleadings, testimony and proceedings such order as is necessary to enforce the order of the commission or supreme court of appeals.
(b) The legislative body of any political subdivision shall have the authority to appropriate funds, in such amounts as may be deemed necessary, for the purpose of contributing to the operation of a local commission.
(c) The local commission shall have the power to appoint such employees and staff, as it may deem necessary, to fulfill its purpose.
(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, a complainant may institute an action against a respondent in the county wherein the respondent resides or transacts business at any time within ninety days after the complainant is given notice of a right to sue pursuant to this subsection or, if the statute of limitations on the claim has not expired at the end of such ninety-day period, then at any time during which such statute of limitations has not expired. If a suit is filed under this section the proceedings pending before the commission shall be deemed concluded.
The commission shall give a complainant who has filed a complaint a notice of a right to sue upon: (1) The dismissal of the complaint for any reason other than an adjudication of the merits of the case; or (2) the request of a complainant at any time after the timely filing of the complaint in any case which has not been determined on its merits or has not resulted in a conciliation agreement to which the complainant is a party. Upon the issuance of a right to sue letter pursuant to subdivision (1) or (2), the commission may dismiss the complaint.
Notice of right to sue shall be given immediately upon complainant being entitled thereto, by personal service or certified mail, return receipt requested, which notice shall inform the complainant in plain terms of his or her right to institute a civil action as provided in this section within ninety days of the giving of such notice. Service of the notice shall be complete upon mailing.
(c) In any action filed under this section, if the court finds that the respondent has engaged in or is engaging in an unlawful discriminatory practice charged in the complaint, the court shall enjoin the respondent from engaging in such unlawful discriminatory practice and order affirmative action which may include, but is not limited to, reinstatement or hiring of employees, granting of back pay or any other legal or equitable relief as the court deems appropriate. In actions brought under this section, the court in its discretion may award all or a portion of the costs of litigation, including reasonable attorney fees and witness fees, to the complainant.
(d) The provisions of this section shall be available to all complainants whose active cases are pending before the human rights commission as well as those complainants who file after the effective date of this section.
(1) Physical force or violence against him or her or any other person, or
(2) Damage to, destruction of or trespass on property,
any of which is motivated by race, color, religion, sex, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation or disability.
(b) Whenever any person, whether or not acting under the color of law, intentionally interferes or attempts to interfere with another person's exercise or enjoyment of rights secured by this article or article eleven-a of this chapter, by actual or threatened physical force or violence against that person or any other person, or by actual or threatened damage to, destruction of or trespass on property, the attorney general may bring a civil action:
(1) For injunctive or other appropriate equitable relief in order to protect the peaceable exercise or enjoyment of the rights secured, or
(2) For civil penalties as specified in subsection (c) of this section, or
(3) For both equitable relief and civil penalties.
This action must be brought in the name of the state and instituted in the circuit court for the county where the alleged violator resides or has a principal place of business or where the alleged violation occurred.
(c) A civil penalty of not more than five thousand dollars per violation may be assessed against any person violating this section.
(d) Each preliminary, temporary, or permanent injunction issued under this section must include a statement describing the penalties to be imposed for a knowing violation of the order or injunction as provided in subsection (e) of this section. The clerk of the circuit court shall transmit one certified copy of each order or injunction issued under this section to the appropriate law-enforcement agency or agencies having authority over locations where the defendant was alleged to have committed the act giving rise to the action, and service of the order or injunction must be accomplished pursuant to the West Virginia rules of civil procedure.
(e) A person who knowingly violates a preliminary, temporary or permanent injunction issued under this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than five thousand dollars, or imprisoned in the county or regional jail not more than one year, or both fined and imprisoned.
Acts, 2010 Reg. Sess., Ch. 32.
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2015 Regular Session
The WV Code Online is an unofficial copy of the annotated WV Code, provided as a convenience. It has NOT been edited for publication, and is not in any way official or authoritative.