Category Archives: Race discrimination

Legislative Update: Insurance industry seeks amendment to West Virginia Human Rights Act

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 [1] any form of threats or reprisal, or to [2] 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 [3] 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

Martin Luther King; His entire “I Have a Dream” speech

Today is the 47th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. We are now two generations removed from that speech. Worse, we live in the age of MTV, Twitter, and 30-second soundbites on the evening news. So all too often, we see only bite-sized snippets from Dr. King’s speech, so I wanted to post the entire speech on this video from YouTube:

Click here for a site that has the transcript, audio, and video of the speech.

The disastrous consequences of the N-word in the workplace. Just ask Dr. Laura!

Okay, this article has nothing to do with Dr. Laura Schlessinger and her “rant” in which she used the N-word repeatedly on her radio program when responding to an African-American caller. But the ensuing controversy (see articles for and against Dr. Laura), and her decision to end her long-running radio program, highlight the extraordinary significance of the N-word term in American society.

The West Virginia Supreme Court recently dealt with the N-word in a case that highlights the great risks for employers when that word enters the workplace.

In PAR Electrical Contractors, Inc. v. Bevelle , — W. Va. –, — S.E.2d –, 2010 WL 2244096 (June 3, 2010) (per curiam), the West Virginia Supreme Court dealt with a claim of a racially based hostile work environment under the West Virginia Human Rights Act, and concluded that the West Virginia Human Rights Commission was justified in finding for the employee. The decision was unanimous. Click here for the WV Human Rights Commission‘s decision which was affirmed by the WV Supreme Court.

A Single Day, With the N-Word Again and Again

PAR Electrical was building “giant towers” for a high voltage electrical transmission line. Richard Wayne Bevelle was hired by PAR Electrical on March 22, 2005, and, after working as a “groundman” assembling the tower bases, was assigned to load helicopters with parts to construct the towers (this helicopter job was described as a “gravy job” by the Human Rights Commission). Mr. Bevelle is African-American.

Continue reading The disastrous consequences of the N-word in the workplace. Just ask Dr. Laura!