Bishop Coal Co. v. Salyers
In Bishop Coal Co. v. Salyers, 181 W.Va. 1, 380 S.E.2d 238 (1989), Brenda Salyers was employed by Bishop Coal Company.
She bid for a vacant job as a scoop operator but was not given the job allegedly because no foreman could vouch for her ability to operate a scoop.
She protested and the employer arranged a test. She admitted that she did not do very well on the test but nonetheless filed a grievance. D
uring arbitration the parties agreed to another test. Once again the test results were not very satisfactory but evidence was submitted to show that the equipment may not have been in perfect operating condition.
When she was not hired for the job, she filed a complaint with the West Virginia Human Rights Commission alleging gender-based harassment, gender-based job discrimination, and gender-based discrimination in training opportunities.
The Commission found that the employer discriminated against Ms. Salyers because three to four months before she bid for the scoop operator job, a male employee with little or no training or experience was promoted to the position of scoop operator.
The male employee was not tested nor was he required to demonstrate his proficiency on the scoop. The employer admitted that the male employee was continuing to be given on-the-job training when Ms. Salyers entered her bid but disputed the issue of whether Ms. Salyers was accorded disparate treatment because of her gender.
The Commission found that Ms. Salyers was a victim of gender-based discrimination and awarded her $ 400 in back pay plus $ 7,500 for mental anguish.
Bishop Coal Company appealed directly to this Court. On appeal, this Court affirmed the Commission's decision that Ms. Salyers was discriminated against because of her gender and upheld the $ 400 award.
The troubling area for the Court was whether to affirm the $ 7,500 award.
In considering the incidental damages award, the Bishop Coal Court reasoned as follows:
We agree with the majority view of the states with statutes similar to our own that hold such statutes do not allow human rights commissions to award punitive or compensatory damages except for back pay and incidental damages. Allowing the commission to award money other than limited incidental damages, without a jury, would violate W.Va. Const ., art. III, 13. We also emphasize that our statute does allow a grievant to pursue his action in a circuit court and specifically authorizes the court to award "legal or equitable relief." W.Va.Code, 5-11- 13 1987. W.Va.Code, 5-11-8 1989 (authorizing the commission to issue cease and desist orders) does not contain a specific authorization for legal relief.
Bishop Coal, 181 W.Va. at 79, 380 S.E.2d at 246.