On April 21, 2020, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals issued a long-awaited opinion on the constitutionality of West Virginia’s Workplace Freedom Act (“WFA”), commonly referred to as the “Right to Work” law. The Court reversed a ruling by Judge Jennifer Bailey of the Circuit Court of Kanawha County in which she held that certain aspects of the WFA violated constitutional prohibitions against infringements on property and liberty interests without due process.
Justice Evan Jenkins delivered the opinion of the Court, with Justice John Hutchison and Judge Gregory Howard, Jr. (sitting by temporary assignment) concurring. The Court made these specific holdings:
The WFA does not violate the right to freedom of association under West Virginia’s constitution by making it unlawful to require persons to pay union dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges.
The WFA’s prohibition against requiring persons to pay union dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges is not an unconstitutional taking.
The WFA does not infringe upon constitutionally-protected liberty interests by making it unlawful to require persons to pay union dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges.
These three holdings by the Court address all of the issues raised in Judge Bailey’s opinion. The Court has remanded the case to Judge Bailey for further proceedings consistent with its holdings. The result is anticipated to be the prompt dismissal of the lawsuit.
In effect, this opinion puts to rest any questions about the legality of the WFA, and allows the unqualified statement that West Virginia is now a right to work state. If you have questions about how this decision might affect your business, contact the author of this alert.