House Bill 2497, which expands protections to those who report problems in the workplace and those who join an “organization of employees,” has been sent to the governor for his signature.

The House concurred Tuesday with a Senate amendment to the bill, marking its full passage. In a session in which members of UE Local 170 have had to mobilize against detrimental bills, this can be celebrated.

As it stands now, the state code prohibits discriminatory and retaliatory actions against whistleblowers. The bill would increase protections in the following ways:

  • Quoting the bill: “No employer may deny a whistleblower covered by the civil service system a promotion or other increase in compensation that the whistleblower otherwise would have received.
  • A worker alleging a violation of this particular law would have 2 years after the occurrence to bring a court action, instead of 180 days.
  • New: Any employee covered by the civil service system may pursue a grievance under the West Virginia Public Employees Grievance Procedure.
  • New: Employees covered by the civil service system may not be prohibited from engaging in political activity (except when on duty or acting in an official capacity), or the right to refrain from political activity.
  • New: Employees covered by the civil service system may not be denied the right to be a member of an organization of employees (such as UE Local 170), or the right to refrain from being a member of such an organization.

The measure achieved nearly unanimous support, passing 89-6 in the House of Delegates and 32-0 in the Senate. The House vote Tuesday to concur was 91-7.

Today (Wednesday), Senate Bill 291 passed Second Reading without amendments, and is up for passage Thursday. SB 291 mandates the PEIA and other health insurers provide mental health parity between behavioral health, mental health, substance use disorders, and medical and surgical procedures.

In the House, SB 339 will be up for passage Thursday, with one amendment. DHHR social workers should pay attention to one section of the rule-making bill, 64-5-1(n), which deals with qualifications for a provisional license to practice as a social worker within the DHHR.

The session is becoming notable for not much else happening, at least in terms of legislation. All bills concerning our retirees likely are as good as dead, as the Senate Pensions Committee did not take it up in its short meeting today (Wednesday). Neither that panel nor a similar House committee are expected to meet again this week.

Sunday is an important day, as bills are due out of committee in their house of origin. Most of the bills submitted this session — positive, detrimental, or otherwise — will die at that point.

Thursday is the 44th day of the 60-day session, which ends March 7.