Wrongful Termination in Virginia

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Wrongful Termination in Virginia

Wrongful termination claims in Virginia can often be complex. Like many other states, Virginia is an "at-will" employment state. This means that, absent an employment contract, either the employer or the employee may terminate the employment arrangement at any time. Also, the termination may occur for any reason, or no reason at all, as long as the motivations for firing the worker are not illegal.

Illegal Motives for Firing an Employee

An example of an illegal motive is if the employer discriminates against a worker in the process of firing them. Discrimination may be based certain characteristics of an individual such as race, age, sex, religion, or nationality. It is also illegal to fire an employee if the termination violates a federal or state statute.

For instance, an employee cannot be fired if she took leave in accordance with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Termination is also considered wrongful if it is used as a form of sexual harassment. Wrongful termination claims in Virginia are most effective if they are based on these statutory types of violations.

Breach of an Employment Contract

Wrongful termination may also be based on a breach of an employment contract. However, Virginia laws presume that the employment is at-will even if the parties have an employment contract in writing. In order to overcome this presumption, the worker must prove that their employment contract directly limited their employer’s rights to terminate them without cause. Thus, any employment contract must specifically mention termination procedures in order for it to be used as evidence in a lawsuit.

Public Policy Violation

Virginia also prohibits termination if it violates public policy. Examples include an employee being fired simply for obeying the law, or for refusing to commit a crime.

Remedies for Wrongful Termination

The penalties for employers who commit wrongful termination may include monetary fines, especially if the termination has affected other areas such as the worker’s ability to pay child support. The employer may also be required to return the worker to the previous job title, including back pay and any benefits they may have had.

On the other hand, employers may try to negotiate a severance package in exchange for the terminated employee’s agreement not to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. You may wish to contact an employment lawyer if you are presented with an offer for a severance package that limits your legal options.

Consulting an Attorney

A qualified Virginia lawyer can help you determine whether there is a legal basis for a claim. He can also help you file your claims, represent you in court, and negotiate the appropriate remedies.

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Last Modified: 02-24-2014 02:29 PM PST

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