Labor laws are a set of laws, rules, and regulations which apply in employment settings. The main intent of these laws is to protect the rights of employees.
Common labor law disputes involve issues such as:
- Collective bargaining negotiation with union employees;
- Discrimination and harassment;
- Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave;
- Wrongful termination; and
- Worker’s compensation.
Labor law is very similar to employment law. The two areas of law cover the same topics and concerns.
Labor law and employment law govern interactions between employers and employees. There are two main categories of employees, at-will employees and contingent employees, such as contract workers.
The majority of state laws provide that employment is at-will. This means that an employer is able to terminate an employee from their position for any reason, so long as that reason is not illegal.
Employment laws in each state also regulate employment contracts, including clauses an employer or employee may find in their employment contract. Typically, an employment contract will specify that an employee is an at-will employee.
If, however, the contract is silent on the matter of the employee’s status and that employee was terminated without reason, the employee may argue that their termination was wrongful. An employee may be able to argue that, pursuant to their contract, they could only be terminated for good cause.
An employment contract is an agreement between an employer and an employee which outlines the basic responsibilities of the employee. When an employee signs a contract, it is deemed as binding.
There are different types of employment contracts which an employee may be required to sign, including:
- Confidentiality agreements, which provide that the employee will not share any proprietary information regarding the company;
- Non-compete agreements, which provide that the employee agrees that, for a specified period of time after the employment ends, they will not work for a competing company or take away the company’s customers;
- Arbitration agreements, in which the employee agrees to arbitrate any disputes that arise with the employer rather than going to court; and
- Termination agreements, which provide that the employer may terminate the employee for any reason.
An individual should always carefully review any employment contract prior to singing. Additionally, they should seek the advice of an attorney who can review the contract and advise them regarding any issues which should be considered prior to signing the contract.
What are the Labor Laws of Virginia?
There are several state and federal laws which are available to protect the rights of individuals who work in the State of Virginia. These laws clarify what employment rights are available in Virginia as well as provide guidelines on how employees are able to enforce these rights.
For these reasons, it is important for employees in Virginia to familiarize themselves with applicable laws. An attorney can provide advice and explain an individual’s rights in Virginia.
What is Part-Time vs. Full-Time in Virginia?
According to Virginia state laws, an individual is a full-time employee if they work 35 hours per week or 1,680 hours per year. This does not apply to certain types of workers, including:
- Seasonal workers;
- Temporary workers; or
- Contract workers.
What is the Minimum Wage in Virginia?
Minimum wage laws in Virginia follow the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. For employees who earn tips, the minimum wage is $2.13 per hour, with the idea that the tips will make up the difference.
What are the Overtime Laws in Virginia?
Although the State of Virginia does not have state laws regarding overtime, it does follow the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Therefore, any employee who works over 40 hours in one week must be paid 1.5 times the normal pay rate.
In addition, Virginia does not have laws stopping mandatory overtime. This means that an employer can request an employee to work however much overtime they wish to and then fire an employee if they refuse to work the overtime.
Are there State Laws Regarding Health Benefits?
Virginia does not have any state laws which require an employer to provide health insurance to its employees. Employers in the state, however, are required to follow the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The ACA only applies to employers that have at least 50 full-time employees. If the company that an individual works for is that large, then it is required to offer health insurance to the majority of full-time employees.
If, on the other hand, an individual works from a smaller company, then the company is not required to offer health insurance. However, some smaller companies may still decide to offer health insurance. An employee should speak to the HR department at their company to determine what health insurance options are available at work.
It is important to note that the ACA is under threat of being repealed and it is unclear if there will be a similar law to replace it if it is repealed. An employee should check with a local attorney to determine what rights they have to health benefits at work in the event that the ACA is repealed or replaced with a new healthcare law.
What is Discrimination?
In every state in the United States, it is against the law to discriminate against an employee for certain characteristics, including:
- National origin;
- Genetic information;
- Citizenship status;
- Disability; and
The Virginia Human Rights Act adds to the list of protected characteristics by making it illegal to discriminate against an employee based on:
- Marital status;
- Pregnancy; or
It is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for complaining about discriminatory behavior towards them. If an employee believes that their employer has illegally discriminated against them, they should file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
In the alternative, the employee can file a claim with the State of Virginia through the Virginia Council on Human Rights (VCHR). It is important to note that each agency has its own deadlines and the employee should work with an attorney to ensure that they file their claim in a timely manner.
In Virginia, any award that an individual may receive will be limited to back pay and attorney’s fees. Therefore, an individual may want to sue in federal court instead.
If an individual sues in federal court, there is also a damages limit, however, the amount may be larger than what the individual would get in state court. The federal limits are determined by the size of the company and are as follows:
- A maximum of $50,000 for companies with 15-100 employees;
- A maximum of $100,000 for companies with 101-200 employees;
- A maximum of $200,000 for companies with 201-500 employees; and
- A maximum of $300,000 for companies with more than 500 employees.
What about Time Off?
A company is not required by Virginia law to provide sick leave and vacation time to employees. In addition, if an individual works for a private company, they do not have the right to be paid for taking time off for holidays. Virginia does not have its own state laws regarding taking time off for pregnancy or disability.
Similar to all other states, Virginia has to follow the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, the FMLA only applies to larger companies which operate in more than one state and have at least 50 employees or more.
Pursuant to the FMLA, an employee has the right to take off a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave. This leave can be used for:
- Adoption; or
While an employee is on leave, they cannot lose their health benefits. In addition, their employer is required to ensure their job is still available when they return.
Where Can I Find a Local Lawyer to Help Me?
It is essential to have the assistance of a Virginia labor lawyer for any employment issues you may be facing in Virginia. Enjoying and exercising your rights as an employee is an important part of working in Virginia. Your lawyer can review your employment situation, advise you of your rights, and assist you if those rights have been violated.