The federal government and the state of Virginia each have many laws protecting your rights as an employee. Here is a brief overview of some important ones.
When choosing the best candidate for the job, employers may not use discriminatory factors to make their decisions. For example, they may not mention age or religious requirements in a help-wanted ad. They may not ask questions such as these in your interview:
- Are you married?
- What country are you from?
- Do you plan to have children?
Minimum Wage and Overtime Requirements
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that most employers pay workers a certain minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime for more than 40 hours in one week. Virginia's wage laws require companies with at least four employees that are not already covered by FLSA to also pay the current federal minimum wage.
Employers must provide workers with a work environment free from any known hazards to health or safety. If workers point out hazards, employers may not fire or otherwise punish them.
Mandatory Workers' Compensation Insurance
Almost all employers in Virginia need to carry this insurance to protect their workers. If you are injured or become ill because of your job, workers' compensation will pay your medical bills, a percentage of your wages while you're off work and other benefits.
Time Off for Serious Illness
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act requires most employers to allow you to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave if you or a close family member has a serious medical condition. In general, employers with at least 50 employees must offer this leave and must return you to the same or an equivalent job. To qualify, you must meet certain employment requirements.
Harassment Is Illegal
Any persistent and unwanted behavior that belittles or otherwise attacks a person based on a protected status, such as race or gender, is considered harassment. It may or may not be sexual in nature. Under federal law, all harassment, from co-workers, supervisors and even clients, is illegal.
For the most part, your employer may terminate your employment for any reason, or for no reason at all, because Virginia is an employment-at-will state. The law does limit this right by somewhat by prohibiting employers from firing for discriminatory reasons or for exercising your rights under other employment laws, such as filing a safety complaint or taking family medical leave.
Although the law does not require your company to include unused vacation time in your final paycheck, if it has a policy of doing so, you should also receive it.
In some cases, you may receive certain benefits for a set time after leaving your job:
- Unemployment insurance pays a percentage of your previous wage if your job loss was not your fault, subject to certain eligibility requirements.
- The federal COBRA program requires that most employers with 20 or more full-time employees give workers the option to remain in their group health insurance for up to 18 months.
Find a Virginia Employment Lawyer
This brief overview of employment law can't cover every potential situation you may face. It's important to talk with a labor and employment lawyer in Virginia if you have specific questions.