Senate Bill No. 303

(By Senators Hunter, Foster, White, Kessler, Wells, Chafin, Bailey, Bowman, Edgell and Plymale)


[Introduced January 23, 2008; referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.]


A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new section, designated §21-3-22, relating to employer mandating employee participation in certain activities; prohibiting employers from mandating communication with employees regarding certain employer beliefs and activities; and providing a civil remedy for violations.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new section, designated §21-3-22, to read as follows:

§21-3-22. Employer meetings and communications regarding politics, religion and labor prohibited.

(a) As used in this section:

(1) "Employer" means a person or entity engaged in business who has employees, including the state and any political subdivision of the state;
(2) "Employee" means any person engaged in service to an employer in a business of the employer;
(3) "Political matters" means political party affiliation or the decision to join or not join any political, labor, social group or organization, or the employee or employer's participation in such group or related activity, or expression of any opinion about any such group or participation, and further includes the expression of support or opposition to any candidate for elective office, any matter or opinion relating to any issue raised in an election or any other political or social issue, or the opinion of any other person or candidate relating to the group, organization, issue or person; and
(4) "Religious matters" includes the employee and employer's opinions, beliefs and participation in any religion and the employee and employer's opinions and beliefs
derived from the employee or employer's religious beliefs.
(b) No employer or an employer's agent, representative, or designee may require its employees to attend an employer-sponsored meeting or participate in any communications with the employer or its agents, representatives, or any invitee of the employer, when the primary purpose is to communicate the employer's opinion about religious or political matters.
(c) No employer or an employer's agent, representative or designee may discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize or threaten to discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize any employee because the employee, or a person acting on behalf of the employee, makes a good faith complaint, verbally or in writing, of a violation or a suspected violation of this section. The provisions of this subsection shall not be applicable when the employee knows that the complaint is false.
(d) Any aggrieved employee may enforce the provisions of this section by means of a civil action brought no later than ninety days after the date of the alleged violation in the circuit court of the county where the violation is alleged to have occurred or where the employer has its principal office or principal place of doing business. The court may award a prevailing employee all appropriate relief, including rehiring or reinstatement of the employee to the employee's former position, back pay and reestablishment of any employee benefits to which the employee would otherwise have been eligible if the violation had not occurred. The court shall award a prevailing employee treble damages, together with reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.
(e) Nothing in this section limits an employee's right to bring a common law cause of action against an employer for wrongful termination or to diminish or impair the rights of a person under any collective bargaining agreement.
(f) Nothing in this section prohibits an employer from requiring employee participation in communications when the employer is a
religious, educational, labor, political, or similar organization when the employee's work activities require the employee to have knowledge of those positions or beliefs.
No provision of this section is intended to govern activities preempted by the federal National Labor Relations Act [29 U.S.C. §158], and this section is to be construed to exempt from the scope of its enforcement those actions regulated by the National Labor Relations Act.

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to prohibit employers from mandated captive meetings with their employees on political or religious matters. The bill provides a prohibition on these meetings and allows employees to recover damages for any adverse actions taken against them for refusal to participate in such meetings.

This section of the code is new; therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.

This bill was recommended for introduction and passage by the Joint Committee on the Judiciary during 2007 legislative interims.