Ranger Fuel Corp. v. West Virginia Human Rights Com'n, No. 18316

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtNEELY
Citation180 W.Va. 260,376 S.E.2d 154
Docket NumberNo. 18316
Decision Date12 December 1988
Parties, 51 Empl. Prac. Dec. P 39,391, 78 A.L.R.4th 253, 2 A.D. Cases 342 RANGER FUEL CORPORATION v. The WEST VIRGINIA HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION and Joyce Ann Marcum.

Page 154

376 S.E.2d 154
180 W.Va. 260, 51 Empl. Prac. Dec. P
39,391, 78 A.L.R.4th 253,
2 A.D. Cases 342
RANGER FUEL CORPORATION

v.
The WEST VIRGINIA HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION and Joyce Ann Marcum.
No. 18316.
Supreme Court of Appeals of
West Virginia.
Dec. 12, 1988.

Page 156

[180 W.Va. 261] Syllabus by the Court

1. Our holding in Allen v. State Human Rights Commission, 174 W.Va. 139, 324 S.E.2d 99 (1984) is not unconstitutional under W.Va. Constitution, art. VIII, § 3 because this Court, although providing hearing examiners to the West Virginia Human Rights Commission, gave no administrative guidance whatsoever on the way decisions were to be made by those hearing examiners.

[180 W.Va. 262] 2. A handicapped person claiming employment discrimination under W.Va.Code, 5-11-9 [1981], must prove as a prima facie case that such a person (1) meets the definition of "handicapped," (2) possesses the skills to do the desired job with reasonable accommodations and (3) applied for and was rejected for the desired job. The burden then shifts to the employer to rebut the claimant's prima facie case by presenting a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for such person's rejection. An example of such a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason is that a person's handicap creates a reasonable probability of a materially enhanced risk of substantial harm to the handicapped person or others.

3. The definition of "handicap" as specified in W.Va.Code, 5-11-3(t) [1981], must be strictly construed in order to assist individuals with substantial handicaps in achieving employment; a strict construction allows proper accommodation of the interests of handicapped individuals, other employees, the employer and the public.

4. Rules and Regulations of the West Virginia Human Rights Commission must faithfully reflect the intention of the legislature; when there is clear and unambiguous language in a statute, that language must be given the same clear and unambiguous force and effect in the Commission's Rules and Regulations that it has in the statute.

Gail Falk, Decatur, Ga., for Joyce Ann Marcum.

Charles G. Brown, Atty. Gen. and Sharon M. Mullins, Asst. Atty. Gen., for H.R.C.

Charles M. Surber, Jr., Jackson & Kelly, Charleston, for appellee.

NEELY, Justice:

Joyce Marcum applied for a job with Ranger Fuel in 1981 and indicated on her application that she would like to be a shuttle car operator or a roof bolter helper. Ms. Marcum was interviewed by the personnel manager and informed that she would be hired as a general inside laborer at Ranger's Beckley No. 4 Mine if she passed the pre-employment physical examination.

The duties of a general inside laborer include: shoveling belts and roadways; laying track; setting timber; dusting rock; greasing belts; making belt splices; loading belts; making supply runs; working on the move crews; and, other tasks associated with periodic assignment to the face area of the mine. The inside temperature of the Beckley No. 4 Mine was roughly 60? Fahrenheit, and the underground portion was damp with many areas of standing water, particularly along the belt lines. The height of the main lines varied from 48 to 72 inches and the height of the underground operating sections was 48 inches or less.

In February, 1982, Ms. Marcum underwent a pre-employment physical examination conducted by Dr. Bernard J. Begley. Ms. Marcum completed a lengthy questionnaire that was reviewed by Dr. Begley before he examined her, and afterward Dr. Begley checked her height, weight, blood pressure, ears, eyes, neck, chest, heart, and skin. He also examined her neurological system by testing her reflexes, and examined her musculoskeletal system for posture, range of motion, back and knee problems. He then tested her hearing, eyesight, breathing, and took an x-ray of her chest. The record indicates that verification of all of these bodily functions was directly related to determining whether a prospective employee could function adequately as a general underground miner in low coal.

Dr. Begley's examination revealed the presence of active lesions associated with the condition of psoriasis located predominantly on Ms. Marcum's lower extremities. These lesions were of a medium degree of severity and, because of the specific requirements of the job for which Ms. Marcum was being considered, Dr. Begley recommended that she not be hired. This unfavorable recommendation was based upon the fact that Ms. Marcum would be required to crawl in the low coal (48 inches) and execute her duties on her hands and knees. Dr. Begley concluded that the potential

Page 157

[180 W.Va. 263] trauma to her hands, wrists, elbows, and knees would inevitably aggravate her psoriasis. This aggravation had a high likelihood of leading to secondary infection that would require extensive treatment.

Part of Dr. Begley's concern arose from the possibility of "Koebner phenomenon". Koebner phenomenon involves an isomorphic response occurring in 50 percent of psoriasis cases that results from the stimulus of trauma or overexposure to ultraviolet light and produces a psoriasis lesion in a part of the body that had not had one before. Thus, even if hands and knees did not already have psoriatic lesions, the trauma of crawling on coal particles presented, in Dr. Begley's opinion, a high likelihood of sufficient trauma to produce psoriatic lesions via the Koebner phenomenon.

Based upon Dr. Begley's recommendation, Ranger did not hire Ms. Marcum. On 23 April 1982, Ms. Marcum filed a complaint with the West Virginia Human Rights Commission alleging discrimination on the basis of her alleged handicap. Ms. Marcum prevailed before the commission and Ranger appealed to the Circuit Court of Raleigh County which reversed the commission. Ms. Marcum and the commission now appeal that decision here. We affirm the judgment of the circuit court in part and reverse in part.

The circuit court ruled in favor of Ranger with regard to three of Ranger's assignments of error. First, the circuit court concluded that this Court's holding in Allen v. State Human Rights Commission, 174 W.Va. 139, 324 S.E.2d 99 (1984) is unconstitutional because this Court does not have authority under W.Va. Constitution, art. VIII, § 3 to direct the Administrative Director of Courts to provide Hearing Examiners to the West Virginia Human Rights Commission to hear the backlog of cases, of which this case was one. Second, the circuit court held that Ms. Marcum was not and is not a handicapped person. And, third, the circuit court held that the West Virginia Human Rights Commission could not apply its rules promulgated 1 August 1982 concerning discrimination against the handicapped to this case when the events in this case had transpired before the effective date of the rules.

I

It appears that the cynosure of the circuit court's determination that the procedures inaugurated by the Allen decision are unconstitutional is contained in the 15th Conclusion of Law of the circuit court's opinion which says:

This judge is not saying that the H.R.C. or Hearing Examiner were guilty of bad faith or...

To continue reading

Request your trial
37 practice notes
  • Appalachian Power Co. v. State Tax Dept. of West Virginia, No. 22795
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 8, 1995
    ...... [agency's] Rules and Regulations that it has in the statute.' Syl. pt. 4, Ranger Fuel Corp. v. West Virginia Human Rights Commission, 180 W.Va. 260, 376 S.E.2d 154 (1988)." Syl. pt. 2, in part, Chico Dairy Company v. Human Rights Commission, 181 W.Va. 238, 382 S.E.2d 75 6. "The concept ......
  • Stone v. St. Joseph's Hosp. of Parkersburg, No. 26962.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 14, 2000
    ...rather than "disabled person" — but both phrases have the same meaning. 13. In Ranger Fuel Corporation v. W.Va. Human Rights Comm'n., 180 W.Va. 260, 376 S.E.2d 154 (1988), we stated that West Virginia's pre-1989 "actual disabilities only" statutory definition of "person with a disability" w......
  • Skaggs v. Elk Run Coal Co., Inc., No. 23178
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 11, 1996
    ...or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential nature of the job. See Ranger Fuel Corp. v. West Va. Human Rights Comm'n, 180 W.Va. 260, 376 S.E.2d 154 10 Obviously, an employer who had no knowledge of an employee's disability cannot be held liable for not accommodating that ......
  • Haynes v. Rhone-Poulenc, Inc., No. 25366.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 14, 1999
    ...Co., 982 F.Supp. 1158, 1160-61 (E.D.Va.1997). 13. The defendant also cites us to Ranger Fuel v. West Virginia Human Rights Commission, 180 W.Va. 260, 376 S.E.2d 154 (1988). Our holding in that case, however, did not address the situation of a person who was able to work but required a tempo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
37 cases
  • Appalachian Power Co. v. State Tax Dept. of West Virginia, No. 22795
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 8, 1995
    ...... [agency's] Rules and Regulations that it has in the statute.' Syl. pt. 4, Ranger Fuel Corp. v. West Virginia Human Rights Commission, 180 W.Va. 260, 376 S.E.2d 154 (1988)." Syl. pt. 2, in part, Chico Dairy Company v. Human Rights Commission, 181 W.Va. 238, 382 S.E.2d 75 6. "The concept ......
  • Stone v. St. Joseph's Hosp. of Parkersburg, No. 26962.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 14, 2000
    ...rather than "disabled person" — but both phrases have the same meaning. 13. In Ranger Fuel Corporation v. W.Va. Human Rights Comm'n., 180 W.Va. 260, 376 S.E.2d 154 (1988), we stated that West Virginia's pre-1989 "actual disabilities only" statutory definition of "person with a disability" w......
  • Skaggs v. Elk Run Coal Co., Inc., No. 23178
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 11, 1996
    ...or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential nature of the job. See Ranger Fuel Corp. v. West Va. Human Rights Comm'n, 180 W.Va. 260, 376 S.E.2d 154 10 Obviously, an employer who had no knowledge of an employee's disability cannot be held liable for not accommodating that ......
  • Haynes v. Rhone-Poulenc, Inc., No. 25366.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 14, 1999
    ...Co., 982 F.Supp. 1158, 1160-61 (E.D.Va.1997). 13. The defendant also cites us to Ranger Fuel v. West Virginia Human Rights Commission, 180 W.Va. 260, 376 S.E.2d 154 (1988). Our holding in that case, however, did not address the situation of a person who was able to work but required a tempo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT