Labor and Employment Law Overview: Virginia

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • Virginia employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees in a variety of protected classes. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Virginia prohibits genetic testing, but allows criminal background checks, medical exams, AIDS/HIV testing and polygraph testing, with restrictions. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • Virginia law sets a minimum wage rate and imposes detailed restrictions on child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Virginia has a number of laws relating to employee pay and benefits, including wage deductions, pay frequency, pay statements and health care continuation coverage. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under Virginia law, employees are entitled to certain leaves including jury duty leave, court appearance leave, election official leave, military leave and crime victims' leave. See Attendance and Leave.
  • Virginia has an occupational safety and health plan that adopts federal guidelines and also places unique regulations on certain industries. See Health and Safety.
  • Virginia employers must abide by termination pay requirements and are prohibited from preventing former employees from obtaining employment elsewhere. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Virginia

Virginia is generally considered an employer-friendly state.

Select Virginia employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

Key Virginia requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

Virginia Human Rights Act

The Virginia Human Rights Act (VHRA) prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of:

  • Age (40 years and older);
  • Color;
  • Disability;
  • Marital status;
  • National origin;
  • Race;
  • Religion; and
  • Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, related medical conditions and lactation).

The VHRA applies to employers with six to 14 employees, except the age discrimination provisions apply to employers with six to 19 employees.

Virginians with Disabilities Act

The Virginians with Disabilities Act (VDA) prohibits all employers, regardless of size, from discriminating against qualified individuals solely because of their disabilities. The VDA protects individuals who have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity or who have a record of such impairment. It does not protect individuals who are merely perceived as having such impairments.

The VDA requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities. An accommodation is not reasonable if it would create an undue burden on the employer. In Virginia, there is a rebuttable presumption that any accommodation that costs more than $500 would impose an undue burden on an employer with fewer than 50 employees.

Virginia Equal Pay Act

The Virginia Equal Pay Act requires employers to pay men and women equally for work that requires equal skill, effort and responsibility and that is performed under similar working conditions.

The law does not prohibit pay differentials based on legitimate nondiscriminatory factors, such as a seniority or merit system.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in Virginia can be found in the Virginia Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Disabilities (ADA): Virginia, EEO - Discrimination: Virginia, EEO - Harassment: Virginia, EEO - Retaliation: Virginia and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Virginia? Federal requirements can be found in Disabilities (ADA): Federal, EEO - Discrimination: Federal, EEO - Harassment: Federal and EEO - Retaliation: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Virginia requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Background Checks

Virginia employers may ask job applicants about their criminal conviction histories but may not require them to disclose information about arrests or criminal charges that did not result in convictions or about criminal records that have been sealed or expunged.

Medical Exams

An employer may require a medical examination of an applicant but may not require the applicant to pay for the cost.

AIDS/HIV Testing

AIDS/HIV testing is permissible only with the express consent of the applicant and only at the employer's expense. The test results must be kept confidential. Unauthorized disclosure is punishable by a penalty of up to $5,000.

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is prohibited. An employer may not refuse to hire an applicant solely on the basis of a genetic characteristic.

Lie Detector Tests

Virginia law permits use of polygraph tests as a condition of employment but prohibits inquiring about an applicant's sexual activities unless such activity resulted in a conviction.

An employer is required either to maintain the results of polygraph examinations in confidence or to destroy them. Results may not be disclosed to third parties without an examinee's permission. Unauthorized disclosure is a misdemeanor.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in Virginia can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Virginia. Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Virginia requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum wage

Virginia employers are required to pay employees at a rate not less than the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour. The Virginia Minimum Wage Act applies to employers with four or more employees and does not apply to employees covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Employers may claim a credit for tips received by employees. The employer determines the amount of tips unless the employee proves a lower amount was received. Employers may claim a credit for the reasonable cost of meals and lodging furnished to employees.

Employers may pay newly hired employees under 20 years of age a "training wage" of at least $4.25 per hour during the first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in Virginia restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

In general, state law prohibits employing minors:

  • In occupations that expose them to a recognized hazard capable of causing serious physical harm or death;
  • As a performer in or subject of sexually explicit visual material; or
  • In situations in which their life, health or morals may be endangered, or where they are overworked, tortured, tormented, mutilated, beaten or cruelly treated.

Virginia places further restrictions on occupations in which minors may be employed based on age. For example:

  • Minors under the age of 18 may not work in any:
    • Mine, quarry, tunnel or underground scaffolding work;
    • Occupation involving exposure to radioactive substances or to ionizing radiations including X-ray equipment; or
    • Place where goods of alcoholic content are manufactured, bottled or sold for consumption on the premises, with exceptions.
  • Minors under the age of 16 may not work in any:
    • Mechanical establishment;
    • Commercial cannery; or
    • Hospital, nursing home, clinic, or other establishments providing care for resident patients.
  • Minors under the age of 14 may work only in specified occupations, such as:
    • Caddying;
    • Delivering parcels or messages;
    • Distributing newspapers; and
    • Running errands.

Minors under the age of 16 may not work in nonagricultural employment:

  • During school hours, except in a school work-training program;
  • More than 40 hours in any week when school is not in session;
  • More than 18 hours in any week when school is in session;
  • More than eight hours on any day when school is not in session;
  • More than three hours on any day when school is in session; or
  • Before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. (after 9:00 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day).

Additionally, minors under the age of 16 may not work in farms, gardens or orchards during the hours that school is in session.

Minors who work for more than five continuous hours must be given a lunch period of at least 30 minutes.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in Virginia can be found in the Virginia Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Minimum Wage: Virginia, Child Labor: Virginia and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Virginia? Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Virginia requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Pay Frequency

Virginia employers are required to establish regular pay periods for all employees. Salaried employees must be paid at least once per month, and hourly employees must be paid at least every two weeks or twice per month, except:

  • Employees whose weekly wages total more than 150 percent of the average weekly wage in Virginia may be paid once a month if the employee agrees; and
  • Students enrolled in school-administered work-study programs may be paid once a month.

The requirements do not apply to employees classified as executives under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Pay Statements

An employer must provide, upon an employee's request, a written statement of gross wages earned during a pay period and the amount and purpose of any deductions.

Wage Deductions

An employer may not make wage deductions without the employee's written and signed authorization, except for payroll taxes or as otherwise required by law, such as garnishments.

An employer also generally may not condition employment or continued employment on employees signing agreements providing for the forfeiture of wages.

Health Care Continuation Coverage

The Virginia health care continuation coverage law requires employers with fewer than 20 employees to provide up to 12 months of continued group health care coverage to eligible employees experiencing qualifying events that would otherwise result in a loss of coverage.

To be eligible for coverage, the employee must have been insured under the group policy for the three-month period prior to the termination of eligibility for coverage.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefits practices in Virginia can be found in Payment of Wages: Virginia, Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Virginia, Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Virginia and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Virginia? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal, Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Federal and Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal.

Attendance and Leave

Virginia has several laws relating to required leaves for employees, which cover all employers. These laws include:

  • Jury duty leave;
  • Court appearance leave;
  • Election officer leave;
  • Military leave; and
  • Crime victim's leave.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on attendance and leave practices in Virginia can be found in the Virginia Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Jury Duty: Virginia, Other Leaves: Virginia and USERRA: Virginia. Federal requirements can be found in Jury Duty: Federal, Other Leaves: Federal and USERRA: Federal.

Health and Safety

Key Virginia requirements impacting health and safety are:

Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Plan

The Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) Law adopts, for the most part, the federal OSHA guidelines. It applies to all private employers except those covered by other federal safety laws, such as the Mine Safety and Health Act.

VOSH has unique regulations covering:

  • Clearances in Power Transmission and Distribution;
  • Confined Space;
  • Evacuation;
  • Fall Protection;
  • Field Sanitation;
  • Overhead High Voltage;
  • Reverse Signal Operation;
  • Sanitation for Construction;
  • Telecommunications;
  • Tree Trimming Operations; and
  • Underground Construction Protection.

Weapons

An employer may ban guns and weapons from the workplace, including parking lots and grounds.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on health and safety practices in Virginia can be found in HR and Workplace Safety: Virginia, Workplace Security: Virginia and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Virginia? Federal requirements can be found in HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal and Workplace Security: Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Virginia requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Termination Pay

Upon voluntarily or involuntarily termination of employment, an employee must be paid all wages due for work performed prior to the termination by the date the employee would have been paid had he or she not been terminated.

An employer is subject to civil penalties, legal costs and interest for noncompliance with termination pay requirements and/or to criminal penalties for intentional noncompliance.

References

An employer may not engage in blacklisting, i.e., preventing or attempting to prevent a former employee from obtaining employment elsewhere.

The law does not prohibit employers from giving truthful statements about:

  • The circumstances surrounding an employee's termination; or
  • The character, industry and ability of an employee who voluntarily left.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on organizational exit practices in Virginia can be found in Payment of Wages: Virginia and Employee Communications: Virginia. Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Employee Communications: Federal.