Insurance companies have been urging the West Virginia Legislature to pass legislation to overturn the West Virginia Supreme Court’s decision in Michael v. Appalachian Heating, LLC, 701 S.E.2d 116 (June 11, 2010). In Michael, the West Virginia Supreme Court held that the West Virginia Human Rights Act prohibited discrimination by an insurance company in settling claims covered by an insurance policy.
The Michael Decision
Generally, the Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination (1) in the workplace, (2) in places of public accommodation (like hotels, shopping centers), and (3) in connection with transactions involving housing and real estate (like renting apartments and buying houses).
But at issue in Michael was section 5–11-9(7) of the Human Rights Act, which was not limited to those three categories of activity. Here is the relevant language in section 5–11-9(7)(A);
It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice [based on race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, age, and disability] …
(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 .…
In subpart (7)(A) above I have bracketed the three specific causes of action (legal theories) which the Supreme Court said are discernible in subpart (7)(A). I have also bolded the second cause of action, which was the key cause of action at issue in the Michael case.
Continue reading Legislative Update: Insurance industry seeks amendment to West Virginia Human Rights Act