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Garry Geffert hits it out of the park!

Posted on May 26, 2015 at 3:35 PM

Ordinarily I try to write new content for these blog posts, but today I will happily throw off that constraint.  Today, I am writing in praise of another local attorney, and his letter to the editor that was published in the Monday, May 25, 2015 edition of The Journal.  In his letter, Legislative majority is not worker-friendly, local attorney, Garry Geffert identifies two bills passed by the 2015 legislature which have substantially erroded worker's rights in West Virginia.  I am writing this blog post in the hope that Garry's excellent, and insightful letter gets as much attention as is possible.

Today, I am only going to discuss SB 12.  Garry describes SB 12, sponsored by Craig Blair, and Charles Trump, as being a bill designed to "make it cheaper to steal the wages of working people."  Garry goes on to explain that before the 2015 leglislative session, if an employer had failed to pay his employee all of the wages due to him in a timely fashion, then the employee could sue the employer for the unpaid wage, plus three times that amount, and, if the employee was successful, then the employer also had to pay the employee's attorney's fees and costs.  The present law, with Senator Blair's and Senator Trump's fingerprints all over it, reduces the penalty to two times the stolen wages.  Further, if the wages being sought are overtime wages, then the employee must pay for his own attorney.  (Dirty little secret:  this is where most employers try to get one over on an employee...they can see working a woman 60 to 80 hours a week, but not paying time and one half for it.  Since this category of wage theft is most prevalent, by removing the attorney's fees as an award that can be recouped, Blair and Trump have nipped the lion's share of these cases in the bud.  See below.)

When a law requires the offending party to pay for the attorney's fees and costs of the injured party, that is known as a fee shifting statute, and is designed by "thoughtful" leglislatures to discourage, in this case, employers from stealing from employees.  The problem that 'thoughtful' legislatures understand is that most of these wage theft cases are for relatively small amounts of money, and as a result of the exorbitant expense involved in ligitating almost anything in America today, an employee who has been screwed out of, say $1000.00 of wages, cannot, absent a fee shifting statute, afford to hire a lawyer to pursue such a small case.  Accordingly, under the Blair/Trump regime, workers who have been screwed out of their wages by employers will file fewer lawsuits to recover their wages, and wage thieves will get away with theft more often.

If you pointed the above fact out to Senators Blair and Trump, I'm sure that they would respond with "fewer lawsuits, why, that's a win for West Virginia!"  It certainly is not a win for the poor West Virginia family that has been screwed out of $1000.00 worth of wages, and now has no real recourse left to them.  $1000.00 in wages is enough to feed a family of four for almost 6.8 weeks.  An average human being can survive for approximately 16 days after food is taken away from him.  Accordingly, because our hypothetical West Virginia family of four is deprived of food for 47 days due to the wage theft, then that is enough employer greed to kill them all 2.9 times over.

I wonder which constituent of either Senator Blair, or Senator Trump asked for such legislation as the new SB 12?  Most West Virginians are employees, not employers, why would employees, who stand to be hurt by legislation such as the new SB 12, vote for people such as Senators Blair and Trump?  Perhaps they are taking orders from a different paymaster? I suspect that most people who voted for Senators Blair and Trump only voted for a slick ad campaign paid for by well off employers and corporations.  Those voters never voted to screw over wage earners, but the result of their uninformed votes has led to just that result.  It is time for West Virginians to begin to educate themselves to the issues, and to start voting for their own interests.

Thanks again, Garry Geffert, for the tremendous letter to the editor!

Categories: The law

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