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West Virginia Consumer Protection and Employment Law Blog

Are warranties and service contracts the same thing?

When you purchase certain products in Charleston, the expectation often is that the maintenance of that product is covered under a warranty. In many cases, you may indeed be right. What may seem to confusing to you, however, is to see a company that offers products supposedly covered by warranties than also offer service contracts. Are extended services not covered under warranty? If so, what is the need, then, for a service contract? Or are service contracts and warranties essentially the same thing? 

First and foremost, it is important for you to understand that warranties and service contracts are not the same. Per the Federal Trade Commission, service contracts are known as “warranty pieces.” This use of the word warranty can cause confusion (in fact, some service contracts are even marketed as “extended warranties”), and the fact that the also cover many of the same things (e.g. repairs, replacement parts, routine maintenance) can serve to compound that. Yet the distinction between the two is that a product warranty should be included in the purchase price, while a service contract is typically only available at am additional cost. 

Nonconformities explained

The process of purchasing a new vehicle in Charleston can be both exhilarating and terrifying. You are no doubt excited about the purchase, yet your enthusiasm is often tempered by concerns that the vehicle may not function as well as you expect once you drive it off the lot. Many people have come to us here at The Grubb Law Group after having been told that they can take a poorly functioning vehicle back to the dealership and that the dealer must take it back, no questions asked. If you have been told the same thing, you first need to know exactly what your consumer protections are in such a situation. 

West Virginia’s lemon law does indeed allow you to have your new vehicle either repaired or replaced (at no additional cost to you) if it is not performing as promised. Yet in order for a manufacturer to be bound to this law, your vehicle must have what is known as a nonconformity. Per the Better Business Bureau, nonconformities (at least in the context of the state’s lemon law) are defects and conditions that substantially impair both the effective use of the vehicle and its market value. Any issues that produce such problems are covered under the law. 

Whom does the Whistleblower Protection Act cover?

In a perfect world, federal agencies with offices in West Virginia would always conduct themselves in a way that was responsible, lawful and beneficial to the general public. Unfortunately, the world is not perfect and those in power can become greedy and corrupt. When that happens, it is necessary to hold those in charge to account for their actions and inactions. That duty often falls to whistleblowers, who are ordinary employees that make the difficult decision to report wrongdoing by their employers. 

According to FindLaw, if you are a whistleblower, you may sometimes face retaliation from the superiors against whom you made the negative report. Although retaliation is illegal, the effects on your livelihood and future prospects can be devastating if it does occur. Nevertheless, the lawmakers realize the crucial service you, as a whistleblower, serve by reporting a superior's wrongdoing. The Whistleblower Protection Act has been in effect since 1989 and protects you from retaliation from a federal employer.

Lawsuit filed following scaffolding collapse

It may be well-known amongst many in Charleston that certain industries can place those who operate in them in potentially dangerous situations. Some might question, then, why people would be willing to work in such professions. In many cases, employees working in potentially dangerous injuries may simply have a love for the work. They likely also have confidence that their employers (knowing the dangers that they face) have taken every step necessary to ensure their safety. It is typically only in the event that such an expectation is not met that workers chose to seek legal action against the companies that they work for. 

A failure to maintain a safe working environment is the allegation being made by a construction worker in Florida. The man was involved in a scaffolding collapse while working on a multi-story hotel. While no mention was made of any injuries that he himself sustained in the incident, two of coworkers lost their lives. In a lawsuit, the man is alleging that witnessing their deaths has caused him emotional and psychological distress, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Federal authorities cited the two companies named in the lawsuit for violations in the wake of the accident, yet the citations against one of them were later dropped. 

Attorneys challenge class action after plaintiff is dropped

The concept of a class action lawsuit may seem relatively straightforward to most in Charleston: a group shares the same cause of action against a single defendant, and thus collectively brings action against said defendant. Yet such matters are rarely that simple, both for those accused of wrongdoing and those doing the accusing. One might indeed feel as though they are a grievance with other parties, yet thorough research should still be devoted to one's individual claim to ensure that they indeed have a valid cause of action. Failing to verify this could potentially call the entire class' validity into question. 

It is that validity that the lawyers representing Universal Music Group are questioning after one of the groups that had filed a class action lawsuit against them was dropped from the case. The lawsuit stems from a 2008 warehouse fire on the NBC/Universal lot that supposedly destroyed the master recordings of several prominent groups and artists, including Tom Petty, Soundgarden and Tupac Shakur. The group Hole also joined in the lawsuit, but was later told that its masters were not among those destroyed in the fire. Upon learning this, the class agreed to drop Hole from the lawsuit. The teams representing UMG have responded by saying that many of the claims made by plaintiffs in this case were rushed into in the same manner that Hole's was, and thus are baseless. 

The many ways employers intentionally avoid overtime pay

You work hard for your money, and you deserve to receive reasonable compensation as promised by your employer for the work you do. More importantly, you should also receive compensation that complies with federal employment laws, including overtime pay when appropriate.

Salaried workers typically do not receive overtime. Your employer can require that you work extra hours in the evening or on the weekend without paying you more. However, if you are an hourly worker who makes a different wage depending on how many hours you work in a given pay period, your employer has to give you overtime compensation for any hours that you work over 40 within a given week.

Sam’s Club in West Virginia accused of disability discrimination

Discrimination laws protect people with disabilities in the workplace. Employers cannot treat people differently because of a disability. They must treat all their employees equally. And employers must accommodate those with a disability who want to work.

In a West Virginia Sam’s Club, an employee who requires a wheelchair faced possible discrimination when the store changed the responsibilities of her job.

What should I do about microaggressions at work?

Blatant discrimination at work is usually easy to identify. However, microaggressions, which are smaller, yet still hurtful, slights aimed at minority workers, are much harder to pin down. Even if the worker has a completely valid claim about poor behavior, it can be difficult to communicate the issue to others. This is especially true for the person responsible for the slight, who might be coming from an ignorant, yet well-intentioned place. CNBC offers the following examples of microaggressions and how employees can deal with them. 

Comments about natural hair

Is it a pyramid scheme?

Like many in Charleston, there has likely been a time when you were contacted by a friend or associate about a product they are selling in conjunction with the opportunity for you to join them in selling it. You might immediately group all such pitches into the category of “pyramid schemes.” Yet to identify any business opportunity into such a broad category is to overlook the distinguishing elements between actual pyramid schemes and multi-level marketing campaigns. Pyramid schemes are illegal, while multi-level marketing campaigns are completely legitimate. 

You are likely not the first to confuse the two. Indeed, both rely on recruiting others to join a company’s sales force (and them making commissions off of their recruits’ sales). West Virginia lawmakers recognized this confusion, and in 2009 introduced legislation clearly defining multi-level marketing as ”a system of direct selling in which consumer products are sold to consumers by their upline (distributors),...Agents, direct sellers and dealers are also encouraged to build and manage a sales force by promoting, recruiting, sponsoring, motivating, supplying and training others in their downline to sell company products or services. Agents, direct sellers and dealers earnings are then based on the sales of the entire sales force in their downline, in addition to personal sales.” 

What is a mass tort claim?

Mass tort claims arise from injuries or other types of harm all stemming from the same product or situation. While these cases are similar to class action suits, with mass tort cases each plaintiff receives his or her own trial, according to HG.org. Conversely, with class action suits there is typically a single trial that encompasses all victims in pursuit of damages. The following are some other key point involving mass tort litigation. 

Mass torts usually involve three separate occurrences. Many involve injuries caused by consumer products, which may malfunction or operate unexpectedly. In this case, the person injured may choose to file suit, or the person's loved ones might file a wrongful death suit if the person is deceased. Medications can also be damaging to a person's health and well-being. Lastly, many mass tort cases are predicated on issues in the environment that cause a great deal of property damage or injuries. 

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The Grubb Law Group

The Grubb Law Group
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