Employment Law in Virginia

If you have suffered treatment from an employer in Virginia that violates employment laws, learning more about the law can help. Hiring an employment law attorney can best help you navigate the process, and increase the chances of winning your case.

What Is Employment Law?

Employment law covers the rights, responsibilities, and obligations within the employer-employee relationship. Employment lawyers serve both employees and employers, though they generally focus their practice on serving one or the other. Regardless of who their clients are, their goal is to present a solid case and defend them.

Understanding Employment Law Labor Rights in Virginia

Employees have a wide range of rights that employers cannot violate. If employers violate these rights, workers can file a complaint against them. Each state has unique labor laws and some also make provisions for qualifying independent contractors. Below are the most common topics covered in employment law across the country.

Wage and Hour Laws

Laws protect non-exempt employees from being forced to work for low wages and a certain amount of hours without increased pay. These are the wage and hour laws. They outline the minimum wages an employee can earn as well as the maximum amount of hours worked before qualifying employees should get paid overtime.

Virginia, like every other state, has unique wage and hour laws. However, there are federal laws in place that are minimum requirements for all states. For example, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, but most states exceed that amount.

The Fair Labor Standards Act states that non-exempt employees can only work 40 hours per week at their regular wage rates. If they exceed that number, the employer must pay them overtime rates at a minimum of time and a half. Some states also require weekend overtime pay, holiday pay, and overtime for working more than a certain number of hours each day.

Under amended Virginia law, the state’s mandated minimum wage is currently $9.50. This legislation will continue to raise the minimum wage to $11.00 in 2022, and $12.00 in 2023. Further increases to $13.50 in 2025, and $15 in 2026, will be contingent on the General Assembly’s enactment by July 1, 2024. The new law also removes minimum wage exceptions for a number of employee groups. These exceptions include individuals employed in domestic service, and employees working for an employer with fewer than four employees.

Workers’ Compensation

If you’ve been injured on the job in Virginia, you might be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. This includes payments for lost wages and past or future medical bills that resulted from your workplace injury.

In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation, you must meet these requirements:

  • You must be an employee.
  • You must have a work-related illness or injury.
  • Your employer must carry workers’ comp insurance.
  • You must meet the deadline for filing workers’ comp claims.

There are, however, exceptions to these requirements that may still make you eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, if your employer is denying you benefits, you should contact an experienced Virginia attorney for assistance with your case.

Termination Rights under Virginia Employment Law

If you live in an at-will state, or your employment is “at-will,” you can be terminated from your job without notice and without cause. However, even at-will employees have rights when it comes to termination. A violation of those rights can be wrongful termination.

Here are some reasons your termination might be wrongful even if you are an at-will employee:

  • Written promises or contracts
  • Implied promises
  • Violations of public policy
  • Breaches of good faith and fair dealing
  • Workplace retaliation
  • Discrimination
  • Defamation
  • Fraud
  • Whistleblowing violations

Under Virginia law, Virginia is a right-to-work state. This means that union membership and dues payment cannot be a condition of employment in the state.

Virginia is also an at-will employment state. This means, unless you have a contract that says otherwise, your employer is free to fire you without any reason. Furthermore, you can quit without giving any reason. As long as the firing was not for an illegal or discriminatory reason, it does not have to be fair.

If you believe your termination was wrongful due to the above circumstances, then contact a qualified Virginia employment law attorney right away. This is because there are time constraints on how long you can wait to file a claim.

Unemployment Benefits

If you’ve lost your job, you can file for unemployment benefits with the state unemployment agency. The agency will either approve or deny your claim. If it’s approved, you’ll receive monthly unemployment checks and benefits in the mail after filing weekly unemployment claims. Still, unemployment claims can be denied for a number of reasons, including:

  • If you were fired for misconduct.
  • You voluntarily quit your job.
  • You do not have enough earnings during the work period.

If your claim is denied, then you can appeal the decision if you think it’s the wrong choice. Working with an experienced Virginia attorney during the appeal process can improve your chances of winning the case.

Paid and Unpaid Time Off

Additionally, some states require paid time off as well as medical and family leave for employees. Oftentimes, this is combined into one singular paid time off, (PTO), amount. Laws can vary state-to-state, but typically PTO is accrued over time and you’ll get a set amount of PTO days per year.

Some states have laws that force the employer to pay for unused PTO. If you are not given proper PTO or your employer doesn’t follow your state’s medical or family leave laws, you can file a complaint.

Virginia law does not require employers to provide employees with sick leave benefits, either paid or unpaid. Additionally, Virginia does not require private employers to provide employees with either paid or unpaid holiday leave. Furthermore, a Virginia employer can require an employee to work holidays at their regular pay rate. Employers are not required to pay an employee premium pay on holidays unless the hours worked are in excess of 40 in a workweek. If that is the case, then the employer must pay the overtime rate, 1½ times the regular pay rate.

Child Labor Laws

Child labor laws are a lot more strict than regular labor laws and require employers to be extra careful when scheduling minors. Each state has its own child labor laws that outline the number of hours a minor can work per week. These include how often they should have breaks, how many days in a row they can work, and how late they can work each night.

Virginia Code lays out the prohibited occupations, and governs the employment of minors in Virginia. In general, 14 and 15-year-olds:

  • Must have an Employment Certificate
  • Have limits on hours they can work
  • Cannot work in jobs considered dangerous or unwholesome

However, minors do not need employment certificates for certain jobs. These jobs include farm work, performing, volunteering, or working for their parents.

Virginia Employment Anti Discrimination Laws

A collection of federal anti-discrimination laws protect workers from employment discrimination. Following are brief descriptions of some of these anti-discrimination acts:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Prohibits employers from selecting job applicants and employees based on race, religion, color, sex, and national origin.
  • Age Discrimination Act: Prohibits discrimination based on age for employees over the age of 40 years old.
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating based on pregnancy, childbirth, or a related condition.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities at any time during the application or hiring process or once the person holds the job.
  • Equal Pay Act: Requires employers to give men and women equal pay for equal work.

Sexual Harassment

If a coworker, employer, or client sexually harasses someone in the workplace; the employee has a set of rights to protect them from further harassment. Laws also offer protection from retaliation, such as getting fired for reporting a manager. If you or someone you know is being sexually harassed in the workplace, report it to your HR department.

Virginians are protected from sexual harassment in the workplace by federal law and Virginia’s Human Rights Act. However, HB 2155, which sought to expand and clarify the definition of sexual harassment in the Human Rights Act, recently failed to pass.

The current law is enforceable by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The employee must file a complaint no more than 180 days after the incident took place. Of note, the EEOC has recently filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against an IHOP franchise in Virginia.

Work With an Experienced Virginia Employment Lawyer

If you have employment law concerns, or you’re currently preparing for a case in Virginia, then working with an experienced attorney can help. The hard part is finding the right one. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Virginia state lines.

Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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