Virginia Vastly Expands Its Employment Laws
Substantial changes to Virginia’s employment laws were enacted, including expanding anti-discrimination protections, requiring reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and childbirth, increasing the minimum wage, providing a private right of action for wage payment violations, strengthening worker misclassification laws, prohibiting non-competes for low-wage employees, and implementing whistleblower protections.
- The Virginia Values Act added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of characteristics protected from discrimination. The law also now covers all employers with 15 or more employees, with varying coverage for unlawful discharge claims based on age (employers with more than 5 and fewer than 20 employees) and other unlawful discharge claims (employers with more than 5 employees). It also added a private right of action, and authorized the Virginia Division of Human Rights to investigate charges of discrimination.
- Discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, including lactation, is prohibited. Employers must also provide reasonable accommodations, including for lactation, absent an undue hardship.
- The General Assembly initially approved an increase in the minimum wage to $15 by 2026. Pursuant to an amendment by the Governor to that original legislation, approved by the General Assembly, the minimum wage will increase to $9.50 on May 1, 2021, $11 on January 1, 2022, and $12 on January 1, 2023, with further increases contingent on specific General Assembly action by 2024.
- Employees now have a private right of action for violations of the wage payment law and for discrimination or retaliation with regard to complaints for unpaid wages. Subcontractor employees may sue both the subcontractor and general contractor for unpaid wages.
- Employees who are misclassified as independent contractors may bring a private right of action against the employer, and may also sue for retaliation for reporting misclassification.
- Virginia now prohibits non-compete agreements for low-wage employees.
Under a new whistleblower law, employees are protected from retaliation for reporting violations or suspected violations of law, refusing to violate the law, or engaging in certain protected conduct.