The West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act ensures that West Virginia workers receive all wages and fringe benefits due them for the hours they work. The Act aims to protect the rights and wages of workers, while providing a level playing field among the state businesses which must follow these rules. In brief, the Act provides:
· Employees must be paid at least once every two weeks unless a special waiver is obtained by the Commissioner of Labor to pay less frequently;
· Wages are paid in cash, check, money order or direct deposit;
· Employees must be notified in writing at the time of hiring of the rate of pay and of the day, hour and place of payment and thereafter of any changes.
· Employers are not required to provide paid fringe benefits such as holiday pay, vacation pay, sick leave or any other type of paid leave to their employees. However, if employers do provide such benefits, they must establish a written policy outlining how those benefits are earned and pay them accordingly.
· Employees are entitled to an itemized statement of deductions made from wages of each pay period.
· Employers are prevented from selling goods or supplies to employees at prices higher than their current value;
· Employers are prohibited from deducting more than 25% of an employee's net earnings under a wage assignment and may not take a wage assignment unless it contains the written notarized authorization of the employee, specifies the amount due, states that ¾ of the employee's net wages are exempt, and is for a period of no longer than one year.
· Employees that are discharged must be paid all wages, including fringe benefits due, within four business days of the last hour of employment.
· Employees that resign should be paid all wages, including fringe benefits due, by the next regular payday or their last day of work when a full pay period's notice has been provided by the employee.
Common Employer Abuses to Look for:
1. Payment upon termination of employment.
Fired employees are often not timely provided with their final paycheck. Final paychecks must be provided with four business days of termination, no exceptions. Business days are defined as any day other than Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays.
2. Fringe benefits payable upon separation.
Vacation pay and other fringe benefits that are earned according to company policy are considered wages and, generally, must be paid upon separation of employment. However, employees should consult their company's written policy relating to the payment of these benefits, if not received. Employers are permitted to place conditions on these fringe benefits and to exclude payment upon separation in their written policies. For example, policies not to pay fringe benefits to employees who were discharged for cause are permissible.
3. Assignment of wages.
Without a valid wage assignment agreement, an employer is not permitted to make a deduction from an employee's pay for repayment of an obligation owed to the employer. Such obligations include: damages caused by the employee, services provided to the employee, salary advances, loans, etc. In order to have a valid assignment it must: be in writing; be accepted through signature of the employee with the employee's signature being notarized; specify the total amount due; state that three-fourths of the employee's net earnings shall be exempt from assignment and; be limited to no more than one year.
4. Coercion of employees to purchase merchandise in payment of wages;
Businesses may not coerce or compel, or attempt to coerce or compel, an employee to purchase goods or supplies in lieu of paying wages due him. For example, an employer requiring an employee to purchase work uniforms by taking deductions from his or her pay could violate the Act. Even when appropriate, employers may not sell goods or services to an employee in payment of wages due or to become due him at prices higher than the reasonable or current market value.
The Act employs strong enforcement mechanisms and allows aggrieved employees to file claims for unpaid wages and benefits. In addition, aggrieved employees are often entitled to penalties, such as three times the wages owed at the time the employer violates the Act. The employee may also recover his or her attorney fees and costs in a lawsuit against their employer or former employer.
This article is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this website or any of the email links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between Bordas & Bordas and the user or browser.