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Engrossed Version Senate Bill 230 History

OTHER VERSIONS  -  Committee Substitute (1)  |  Introduced Version  |     |  Email
Key: Green = existing Code. Red = new code to be enacted

WEST VIRGINIA LEGISLATURE

2022 REGULAR SESSION

ENGROSSED

Committee Substitute for

Senate Bill 230

By Senators Rucker and Karnes

[Originating in the Committee on the Judiciary; Reported on February 18, 2022]

A BILL to amend and reenact §6C-2-1, §6C-2-2, §6C-2-3, §6C-2-4, and §6C-2-6 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, all relating to the West Virginia public employees grievance procedure; defining terms; providing that Division of Personnel may not be a party in certain circumstances; clarifying actions by an agency taken during a declared state of preparedness or emergency or any matter relating to protected classes are not grievable; requiring a notarized grievance form and providing for multiple grievants; providing a grievance must be filed within the time limits specified or it may be dismissed; extending certain time limits; providing for appeal for grievances dismissed for timeliness or lack of jurisdiction; providing the grievance evaluator and the administrative law judge must hold all other proceedings in abeyance until a ruling on motion to dismiss; clarifying that grievances may be consolidated as long as the initial grievance has not been dismissed; providing that proceedings may be rescheduled for good cause shown; requiring grievant representatives provide the names and work location of employees being represented; requiring that employees provide the name and contact information of his or her representative; requiring Division of Personnel receive copies of grievance in certain cases; providing a prevailing party at level three may recover attorney’s fees and costs not to exceed $1,000; and authorizing an administrative law judge to award attorney’s fees and costs based on certain findings.   

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:


Article 2. West virginia public employees grievance Procedure.

§6C-2-1. Purpose.

(a) The purpose of this article is to provide a procedure for the resolution of employment grievances raised by the public employees of the State of West Virginia, except as otherwise excluded in this article.

(b) Resolving grievances in a fair, efficient, cost-effective, and consistent manner will maintain good employee morale, enhance employee job performance, and better serve the citizens of the State of West Virginia.

(c) Nothing in this article prohibits the informal disposition of grievances by stipulation or settlement agreed to in writing by the parties, nor the exercise of any hearing right provided in chapter 18 or 18A of this code. Parties to grievances shall at all times act in good faith and make every possible effort to resolve disputes at the lowest level of the grievance procedure.

(d) Effective July 1, 2007, any reference in this code to the education grievance procedure, the state grievance procedure, article twenty-nine, chapter eighteen of this code or article six-a, chapter twenty-nine of this code, or any subsection thereof, shall be considered to refer to the appropriate grievance procedure pursuant to this article.

§6C-2-2. Definitions.

For the purpose of this article and §6C-3-1 et seq. of this code:

(a) “Board” means the West Virginia Public Employees Grievance Board created in §6C-3-1 et seq. of this code.

(b) “Chief administrator” means, in the appropriate context, the commissioner, chancellor, director, president, secretary, or head of any state department, board, commission, agency, state institution of higher education, commission or council, the state superintendent, the county superintendent, the executive director of a regional educational service agency, or the director of a multicounty vocational center who is vested with the authority to resolve a grievance. A “chief administrator” includes a designee, with the authority delegated by the chief administrator, appointed to handle any aspect of the grievance procedure as established by this article.

(c) “Days” means working days exclusive of Saturday, Sunday, official holidays, and any day in which the employee’s workplace is legally closed under the authority of the chief administrator due to weather or other cause provided for by statute, rule, policy, or practice.

(d) “Discrimination” means any differences in the treatment of similarly situated employees, unless the differences are related to the actual job responsibilities of the employees or are agreed to in writing by the employees.

(e)(1) “Employee” means any person hired for permanent employment by an employer for a probationary, full- or part-time position.

(2) A substitute education employee is considered an “employee” only on matters related to days worked or when there is a violation, misapplication, or misinterpretation of a statute, policy, rule, or written agreement relating to the substitute.

(3) “Employee” does not mean a member of the West Virginia State Police employed pursuant to §15-2-1 et seq. of this code, but does include civilian employees hired by the superintendent of the State Police. “Employee” does not mean an employee of a constitutional officer unless he or she is covered under the civil service system, an employee of the Legislature, or a patient or inmate employed by a state institution.

(f) “Employee organization” means an employee advocacy organization with employee members that has filed with the board the name, address, chief officer, and membership criteria of the organization.

(g) “Employer” means a state agency, department, board, commission, college, university, institution, State Board of Education, Department of Education, county board of education, regional educational service agency, or multicounty vocational center, or agent thereof, using the services of an employee as defined in this section.

(h) “Favoritism” means unfair treatment of an employee as demonstrated by preferential, exceptional, or advantageous treatment of a similarly situated employee unless the treatment is related to the actual job responsibilities of the employee or is agreed to in writing by the employee.

(i)(1) “Grievance” means a claim by an employee alleging a violation, a misapplication, or a misinterpretation of the statutes, policies, rules, or written agreements applicable to the employee including:

(i) (A) Any violation, misapplication, or misinterpretation regarding compensation, hours, terms and conditions of employment, employment status, or discrimination;

(ii) (B) Any discriminatory or otherwise aggrieved application of unwritten policies or practices of his or her employer;

(iii) (C) Any specifically identified incident of harassment;

(iv) (D) Any specifically identified incident of favoritism; or

(v) (E) Any action, policy, or practice constituting a substantial detriment to or interference with the effective job performance of the employee or the health and safety of the employee.

(2) “Grievance” does not mean:

(A) Any pension matter or other issue relating to public employees insurance in accordance with §5-16-1 et seq. of this code retirement or any other matter in which the authority to act is not vested with the employer;

(B) Actions taken by the employer related to declared states of preparedness or states of emergency; or

(C) Any matter relating to the protected classes set forth in §5-11-1 et seq. of this code.

(j) “Grievance proceeding”, “proceeding”, or the plural means a conference, level one hearing, mediation, private mediation, private arbitration, or level three hearing, or any combination, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.

(k) “Grievant” means an employee or group of similarly situated employees filing a grievance.

(l) “Harassment” means repeated or continual disturbance, irritation, or annoyance of an employee that is contrary to the behavior expected by law, policy, and profession.

(m) “Party” or the plural, means the grievant, intervenor, employer, and the Director of the Division of Personnel or his or her designee, for state government employee grievances. The Division of Personnel shall not be a party to grievances involving higher education employees or Department of Transportation employees.

(n) “Representative” means any employee organization, fellow employee, attorney, or other person designated by the grievant or intervenor as his or her representative and may not include a supervisor who evaluates the grievant.

(o) “Reprisal” means the retaliation of an employer toward a grievant, witness, representative, or any other participant in the grievance procedure either for an alleged injury itself or any lawful attempt to redress it.

§6C-2-3. Grievance procedure generally.


(a) Time limits Filing. —

(1) An employee Each grievant shall file a grievance form, signed by the grievant and notarized within the time limits specified in this article. If more than one grievant is a party to the grievance, each grievant must submit a signed and notarized form initiating the grievance: Provided, That each may submit a signed and notarized signature page appended to the grievance form. Failure to properly sign and notarize the form will result in immediate dismissal of a grievance, without prejudice. Within five days of receipt of an order of dismissal of a grievance without prejudice, the employee may refile the grievance, in accordance with this article and applicable rules of procedure, if the initial grievance was timely filed.

(2) The specified time limits may be extended to a date certain by mutual written agreement and shall or the grievance evaluator, mediator, or administrative law judge at the request of any party. The specified time limits shall be extended for cause whenever an agency representative or a grievant is not working because of accident, sickness, death in the immediate family, or other cause for which the agency representative or grievant has approved leave from employment. Grievant representatives who file on behalf of one or more grievants shall provide, as part of the grievance form, the name of each employee and his or her work location for each employee being represented.

(b) Default.

(1) The grievant or the employer prevails by default if a required response is not made by the grievant or the employer within the time limits established in this article, unless the employer or grievant is prevented from doing so directly as a result of injury, illness, or a justified delay not caused by negligence or intent to delay the grievance process.

(2) Within 10 days of the default, the grievant or employer may file with the chief administrator a written notice of intent to proceed directly to the next level or to enforce the default. If the chief administrator objects to the default, then the chief administrator may, within five days of the filing of the notice of intent, request a hearing before an administrative law judge for the purpose of stating a defense to the default, as permitted by subdivision (1) of this subsection, or showing that the remedy requested by the prevailing grievant is contrary to law or contrary to proper and available remedies. In making a determination regarding the remedy, the The administrative law judge shall determine whether the remedy is proper, available, and not contrary to law.

(3) If the administrative law judge finds that the grievant or the employer has a defense to the default as permitted by subdivision (1) of this subsection or that the remedy is contrary to law or not proper or available at law, the administrative law judge may deny the default or modify the remedy to be granted to comply with the law or otherwise make the grievant whole.

(c) Defenses and limitations. —

(1) Untimeliness. -- Any assertion that the filing of the grievance at level one was untimely shall be made at or before level two. Timeliness. — A grievance must be filed within the time frames established in §6C-2-4 of this code.  If the level one evaluator determines that the grievance was not timely filed, he or she shall issue an order dismissing the grievance. The grievant may appeal the dismissal to level three, and an administrative law judge shall review the order. If the administrative law judge overturns the order of dismissal, he or she shall issue an order stating with particularity the facts and the law found to be in error in the order below, and the grievance will be returned to level one for disposition. An administrative law judge will decide an appeal of a dismissal for untimeliness within 30 days.  If the grievance proceeds directly to level three, the administrative law judge shall make a determination of timeliness prior to proceeding with the level three hearing.

(2) Motion to dismiss. — Any party may, at any time, file a motion to dismiss asserting that the board lacks jurisdiction under §6C-2-2(i) of this code, or that grievant has otherwise failed to state a claim under this article upon which relief may be granted, the grievance was not timely filed, or a remedy wholly unavailable to the grievant is requested. Upon filing of such a motion, the chief administrator or administrative law judge shall hold in abeyance all other proceedings, and must, within 10 days of receipt of such filing, issue a ruling on the motion or schedule the motion for a hearing. In no event shall a motion to dismiss be held in abeyance while other proceedings take place.

(2) (3) Back pay. — When it backpay is a proper remedy, back pay it may only be granted for one year prior to the filing of a grievance unless the grievant shows, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the employer acted in bad faith in concealing or fraudulently concealed the facts giving rise to the claim for back pay, in which case an 18-month limitation on back pay applies.

(3) (4) Statutory defense. — If a party intends to assert the application of any statute, policy, rule, or written agreement as a defense at any level, then a copy of the materials shall be forwarded to all parties.

(d) Withdrawal and reinstatement of grievance. — An employee may withdraw a grievance at any time by filing a written notice of withdrawal with the chief administrator or the administrative law judge. The grievance may not be reinstated by the grievant unless it would be timely upon reinstatement and reinstatement is granted by the chief administrator or the administrative law judge. If more than one employee is named as a grievant, the withdrawal of one employee does not prejudice the rights of any other employee named in the grievance.

(e) Consolidation and groups of similarly situated employees. —

(1) Grievances may be consolidated at any level by agreement of all parties or at the discretion of the chief administrator or administrative law judge: Provided, That a grievance that has been dismissed under the provisions of subdivision (1) or (2) of this section may not be revived or consolidated with another grievance.

(2) Class actions are not permitted. However, a grievance may be filed by one or more employees on behalf of a group of similarly situated employees. Any similarly situated employee shall complete a grievance form stating his or her intent to join the group of similarly situated employees. Only one employee filing a grievance on behalf of similarly situated employees shall be required to participate in the conference or level one hearing.

(f) Intervention. — Upon a timely request, any employee may intervene and become a party to a grievance at any level when the employee demonstrates that the disposition of the action may substantially and adversely affect his or her rights or property and that his or her interest is not adequately represented by the existing parties.

(g) Representation and disciplinary action. —

(1) An employee may designate and shall provide the contact information for the individual or organization of the representative who may be present at any step of the procedure as well as at any meeting that is held with the employee for the purpose of discussing or considering disciplinary action. 

(2) An employee may not be compelled to testify against himself or herself in a disciplinary grievance hearing.

(h) Reprisal. — No reprisal or retaliation of any kind may be taken by an employer against a grievant or any other participant in a grievance proceeding by reason of his or her participation. Reprisal or retaliation constitutes a grievance and any person held responsible is subject to disciplinary action for insubordination.

(i) Improper classification. — A supervisor or administrator responsible for a willful act of bad faith toward an employee or who intentionally works an employee out of classification may be subject to disciplinary action, including demotion or discharge.

(j) Forms. — The board shall create the forms for filing grievances, giving notice, taking appeals, making reports, and recommendations, and all other necessary documents and provide them to chief administrators to make available to any employee upon request.

(k) Discovery. — The parties are entitled to copies of all material submitted to the chief administrator or the administrative law judge by any party.

(l) Notice. — Reasonable notice of a proceeding shall be sent at least five days prior to the proceeding to all parties and their representatives and shall include the date, time, and place of the proceeding. If an employer causes a proceeding to be postponed without adequate notice to employees who are scheduled to appear during their normal workday, the employees may not suffer any loss in pay for work time lost.

(m) Record. — Conferences are not required to be recorded, but all documents admitted and the decision, agreement, or report become part of the record. All the testimony at a level one and level three hearing shall be recorded by mechanical means and a copy of the recording provided to any party upon request. The board is responsible for paying for and promptly providing a certified transcript of a level three hearing to the court for a mandamus or appellate proceeding.

(n) Grievance decisions and reports. —

(1) Any party may propose findings of fact and conclusions of law within 20 days of an arbitration or a level three hearing.

(2) A decision, agreement, or report shall be dated, in writing, setting forth the reasons for the decision or outcome and transmitted to the parties and, in a private arbitration, to the board, within the time limits prescribed. If the grievance is not resolved, the written decision or report shall include the address and procedure to appeal to the next level.

(o) Scheduling. — All proceedings shall be scheduled during regular work hours in a convenient location accessible to all parties in accommodation to the parties’ normal operations and work schedules. By agreement of the parties, a proceeding may be scheduled at any time or any place. Disagreements shall be decided by the administrative law judge.

(p) Attendance and preparation. —

(1) The grievant, witnesses, and an employee representative shall be granted reasonable and necessary time off during working hours to attend grievance proceedings without loss of pay and without charge to annual or compensatory leave credits.

(2) In addition to actual time spent attending grievance proceedings, the grievant and an employee representative shall be granted time off during working hours, not to exceed four hours per grievance, for the preparation of the grievance without loss of pay and without charge to annual or compensatory leave credits. However, the first responsibility of any employee is the work assigned to the employee. An employee may not allow grievance preparation and representation activities to seriously affect the overall productivity of the employee.

(3) The grievant and an employee representative shall have access to the employer’s equipment for purposes of preparing grievance documents subject to the reasonable rules of the employer governing the use of the equipment for nonwork purposes.

(4) Disagreements regarding preparation time shall be decided by the administrative law judge.

(q) Grievance files. —

(1) All grievance forms decisions, agreements, and reports shall be kept in a file separate from the personnel file of the employee and may not become a part of the personnel file, but shall remain confidential except by mutual written agreement of the parties.

(2) The grievant may file a written request to have the grievant’s his or her identity removed from any files kept by the employer one year following the conclusion of the grievance.

(r) Number of grievances. — The number of grievances filed against an employer by an employee is not, per se, an indication of the employer’s or the employee’s job performance.

(s) Procedures and rules. — The board shall prescribe rules and procedures in compliance with this article, §6C-3-1 et seq. of this code, and the state Administrative Procedures Act under chapter 29A of this code for all proceedings relating to the grievance procedure.

§6C-2-4. Grievance procedural levels. 


(a) Level one: Chief administrator. —

(1) Within 15 days following the occurrence of the event upon which the grievance is based, or within 15 days of the date upon which the event became known to the employee, or within fifteen days of the most recent occurrence of a continuing practice giving rise to a grievance, an employee may file a written grievance with the chief administrator stating the nature of the grievance and the relief requested and request either a conference or a hearing. The employee shall also file a copy of the grievance with the board. State government employees using the services of the Division of Personnel shall further file a copy of the grievance with the Director of the Division of Personnel.

(2) Conference. — The chief administrator shall hold a conference within ten 20 days of receiving the grievance. A conference is a private, informal meeting between the grievant and the chief administrator to discuss the issues raised by the grievance, exchange information, and attempt to resolve the grievance. The chief administrator may permit other employees and witnesses to attend and participate in a conference to reach a resolution. The chief administrator shall issue a written decision within 15 days of the conference.

(3) Level one hearing. — The chief administrator shall hold a level one hearing within fifteen 20 days of receiving the grievance. A level one hearing is a recorded proceeding conducted in private in which the grievant is entitled to be heard and to present evidence; the formal rules of evidence and procedure do not apply, but the parties are bound by the rules of privilege recognized by law. The parties may present and cross-examine witnesses and produce documents, but the number of witnesses, motions and other procedural matters may be limited by the chief administrator. The chief administrator shall issue a written decision within 15 days of the level one hearing.

(4) An employee may proceed directly to level three upon the agreement of the parties or when the grievant has been discharged, suspended without pay or demoted or reclassified resulting in a loss of compensation or benefits. Level one and level two proceedings are waived in these matters.

(b) Level two: Alternative dispute resolution. —

(1) Within ten 10 days of receiving an adverse written decision at level one, the grievant shall file a written request for mediation, private mediation or private arbitration.

(2) Mediation. — The board shall schedule the mediation between the parties within 20 days of the request. Mediation shall be conducted by an administrative law judge pursuant to standard mediation practices and board procedures at no cost to the parties. Parties may be represented and shall have the authority to resolve the dispute. The report of the mediation shall be documented in writing within 15 days. Agreements are binding and enforceable in this state by a writ of mandamus.

(3) Private mediation. — The parties may agree in writing to retain their choice of a private mediator and share the cost. The mediator shall schedule the mediation within 20 days of the written request and shall follow standard mediation practices and any applicable board procedures. Parties may be represented and shall have the authority to resolve the dispute. The report of the mediation shall be documented in writing within 15 days. Agreements are binding and enforceable in this state by a writ of mandamus.

(4) Private arbitration. — The parties may agree, in writing, to retain their choice of a private arbitrator and share the cost. The arbitrator shall schedule the arbitration within 20 days of the written request and shall follow standard arbitration practices and any applicable board procedures. The arbitrator shall render a decision in writing to all parties, setting forth findings of fact and conclusions of law on the issues submitted within 30 days following the arbitration. An arbitration decision is binding and enforceable in this state by a writ of mandamus. The arbitrator shall inform the board, in writing, of the decision within 10 days.

(c) Level three hearing. —

(1) Within 10 days of receiving a written report stating that level two was unsuccessful, the grievant may file a written appeal with the employer and the board requesting a level three hearing on the grievance. State government employees who utilize the services of the Division of Personnel shall further file a copy of the grievance with the Director of the Division of Personnel.

(2) The administrative law judge shall conduct all proceedings in an impartial manner and shall ensure that all parties are accorded procedural and substantive due process.

(3) The administrative law judge shall schedule the level three hearing and any other proceedings or deadlines within a reasonable time 30 days of receipt of the appeal from a lower level decision in consultation with the parties. The location of the hearing and whether the hearing is to be made public are at the discretion of the administrative law judge. Hearings may be rescheduled at the request of either party or the administrative law judge for good cause shown.

(4) The administrative law judge may issue subpoenas for witnesses, limit witnesses, administer oaths, and exercise other powers granted by rule or law.

(5) Within 30 days following the hearing or the receipt of the proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, the administrative law judge shall render a decision in writing to all parties setting forth findings of fact and conclusions of law on the issues submitted.

(6) The administrative law judge may make a determination of bad faith and, in extreme instances, allocate the cost of the hearing to the party found to be acting in bad faith. The allocation of costs shall be based on the relative ability of the party to pay the costs.

§6C-2-6. Allocation of expenses and attorney's fees.


(a) Any expenses incurred relative to the grievance procedure at levels one, two, or three shall be borne by the party incurring the expenses: Provided, That if the administrative law judge at level three finds that the opposing party presented a grievance or defense which lacked any basis in fact or law, was not brought in good faith, or was brought with malice or wrongful purpose, including, but not limited to, delay or harassment, then the administrative law judge may award the prevailing party actual attorney’s fees and costs not to exceed $1,000.

(b) In the event a grievant or employer appeals an adverse level three decision to the circuit court of Kanawha County, or an adverse circuit court decision to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, and the grievant substantially prevails upon the appeal, the grievant may recover from the employer court costs and reasonable attorney's fees for the appeal to be set by the court.

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