West Virginia Record

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Justices says circuit court misapplied discovery rule

State Court

By Kyla Asbury | Mar 24, 2020

Wvschero

CHARLESTON — The Supreme Court of Appeals found that the circuit court improperly awarded a man relief on the merits of his grievance.

Justice John Hutchison authored the March 20 opinion. Justice Margaret Workman recused herself from the case and Judge Shawn Nines heard arguments in her place.

"In this appeal, the Petitioners argue that the circuit court improperly applied the discovery rule to Respondent’s grievance or, alternatively, the circuit court improperly awarded Respondent relief on the merits of his grievance," Hutchison wrote. "Upon careful review of the briefs, the appendix records, the arguments of the parties, and the applicable legal authority, we reverse."

The West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) posted a vacancy in the Highway Engineer classification on Feb. 23, 2015, and Terra Goins, Michael Powell and three other applicants interviewed for the position. Ultimately, Goins was selected for the job.

Goins visited the office where Powell works on Nov. 4, 2015, and, while at the office, Powell and Goins had a conversation regarding Goins' work experience and Powell felt that Goins was not qualified for the position she was in, so he filed a grievance on Nov. 20, 2015.

In the grievance, Powell alleged that Goins did not meet the requirements for the position and should not have been appointed to the position. He requested that he be awarded the position with back pay for the salary increase the position offered.

The Level One Grievance Evaluator denied Powell relief and the grievance then went to Level Two for mediation, which was unsuccessful. Powell then appealed to Level Three and an administrative law judge granted the DOH's motion to dismiss the grievance for being untimely filed.

Powell then appealed to the circuit court and the circuit court reversed the administrative law judge's decision and ordered that Powell was qualified for the position and Goins was not. The order awarded the position Powell with back pay. Goins and DOH then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Hutchison wrote that the Supreme Court found that the circuit court misapplied the discovery rule, stating that the discovery rule cannot save Powell's untimely filed grievance.

"In sum, there was no basis in the record for the circuit court to find that the ALJ improperly dismissed the Respondent's grievance as untimely filed," Hutchison wrote.

The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's order and remanded the case for entry of an order affirming the dismissal decision of the grievance board.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case numbers: 18-0929, 18-0932

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West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals