Employment and Labor Laws

Virginia

Virginia Employment Law Guide: Minimum Wage, Hours, Leave, & More


Minimum Wage Law

Virginia’s current minimum wage is $11.00.

There is no separate tipped rate for service workers who receive tips in VA. However, businesses whose personnel receive payment via tips must ensure that the employees receive enough tips to earn at least the standard minimum rate. If they do not earn at least the standard minimum, the employer is responsible for paying the difference.

To read more, visit our VA Minimum page, which includes topics such as minimum rates, tip minimum, tip sharing and pooling, and subminimum rates.


Overtime

Virginia protects your rights by requiring employers to pay not less than one and one-half the time of their staff’s regular rates for all hours clocked in excess of 40 hours in any one (1) week. This is the same requirement specified in the FLSA.

Additionally, employers do not need to offer a higher rate for coming in on holidays or weekends. They only need to pay the higher rate for overtime if the person goes over 40 hours a week.

Stronger rules about additional wages exist for certain classifications of people — for example, firefighters or law enforcement — who work more than 40 hours in a week. The rules specifically protect law enforcement and firefighters who do overtime, guaranteeing them not less than one and a half times rate. For these people, paid leave also counts towards the amount of time logged in a single week when calculating earnings. VA Statute 9.10-701.Read the Code of Virginia for additional information on these requirements.


Prevailing Wages

Virginia does not have a statute that governs pay rates for those employed on government projects or service agreements.

Under certain circumstances, businesses in the Commonwealth may be required to pay residents rates established by federal prevailing rates and rules. The prevailing rates may be different from the standard minimum rates.

Employees may be eligible for prevailing wages if they are hired for U.S. government or government-funded construction projects or perform certain government functions. See the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA), and Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA) for more info.


Meals and Breaks

There are different requirements for meals and breaks depending on the age of the individual.

Current state legislation requires companies to provide a lunch period of at least thirty (30) minutes to employees ages fourteen (14) and fifteen (15) when scheduled to be on the clock for more than five (5) hours continuously. VA Statute 40.1-81.

However, employers are not required to provide breaks, including meal breaks, for those sixteen (16) years old or older. Businesses may still choose to offer employees rest and/or meal breaks at their discretion — but an employer who chooses to provide a break in excess of twenty (20) minutes does not have to pay the employee for lunch periods or other breaks if they are free to leave the office, actually take their lunch or break, and do not actually perform duties while on break.

Federal law also applies. According to the FLSA, breaks twenty (20) minutes or shorter typically must be paid. Meal breaks lasting thirty (30) minutes or longer do not need to be paid under the FLSA, as long as the employee is free to do as they wish during the break. If a meal break is interrupted by a job duty or an individual is required to work or remain on call during the break, they are generally required to be paid for their mealtimes.


Nursing Mother Breaks

Current laws require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to nursing mothers after pregnancy. This includes allowing employees who are nursing mothers to take breaks during the day to express breast milk. The necessary reasonable accommodations for employees who are nursing mothers also include access to nonpublic locations for lactation and pumping. The location must be a space other than a bathroom. VA Statute 2.2-3909

You might be exempted from providing a private space for expressing breast milk if providing the space constitutes an undue hardship on your business. According to the state’s code of law, an “undue hardship” is identified on a case-by-case basis by examining the following factors:

  • The nature of the business, including the composition and structure of the workplace;
  • The size of the facility where employment occurs; and
  • The nature and cost of the necessary accommodations for the breastfeeding mother

The law specifically notes that the fact that similar arrangements are often made for other classes of employees constitutes a defense against the idea that accommodating nursing mothers is an undue hardship. This means that a supervisor cannot deny a breastfeeding mother the necessary accommodations for lactation on the basis that they are unreasonable if they consider similar accommodations to be reasonable for others dealing with separate needs.

Under the state’s labor law, employers are also expressly forbidden from taking retaliatory action against people who seek accommodations for lactation in the office. This includes requiring a mother to take leave or dismissing them from their job due to the fact that they need to express milk during the day. Discrimination against nursing women is illegal and could be grounds for prosecution in the courts.


Equal Pay Act

The Code of Virginia specifies “equal pay irrespective of sex” (S 40.1-28.6). Under this law, no employer can discriminate against someone on the basis of sex by paying an employee of one gender less than someone of another for the same job, given that the role requires equal skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions. Exceptions include when salary is determined in accordance with:

  • A seniority system
  • A merit system
  • A system that measures earnings by quality or quantity of production
  • A differential based on any factor other than sex

For example, a job whose earnings are based on sales commissions may be exempted from this requirement because the payment is based on a system that measures earnings by the number of sales, which is a differential based on a factor other than sex.

When employers do not pay equally for equal performance, the difference in the two salaries is considered to be wage theft or unpaid time owed to the worker. The employer must make up the difference in the person’s salary in compliance with the law. People in Virginia who are paid unequally are entitled to recover up to two times the lost money in punitive damages. This would need to be done by hiring a lawyer and bringing forth litigation against the employer.

By amendment to the original law, employers covered by the FLSA are not required to adhere to state equal pay laws, though they are still required to comply with the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This law also protects against payment discrimination based on race, age, or other personal characteristics. The Equal Pay Act applies to all American businesses and guarantees equal compensation to two people of opposite sexes who do similar jobs, with similar qualifications, experience, and performance.

National law also prohibits harassment based on protected minority status, including sex, race, orientation, age, or religion. This law prevents sexual harassment against women in the workplace, including pregnant women. Under the Civil Rights Act, you might be entitled to retribution in the courts if your employer discriminates against you by allowing sexual harassment or workplace bullying to occur.


Vacation Leave

Employers in the Commonwealth are not required to provide paid or unpaid vacation benefits. However, they must provide vacation leave to their personnel if their company policy or employment agreement specifies it. Additional insight about the state’s vacation leave may now be found on our Virginia Leave Laws page.


Sick Leave

In general, Virginia does not require employees to be given paid or unpaid sick leave unless it is specified in the employee’s contract.

To learn more about sick leave, please visit our Virginia Leave page.

Home Health Law

Thanks to a recent change in state law, different regulations now apply to specific classes of home health workers.

In Virginia, home health workers are now guaranteed one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 spent at their jobs. They may use the time either for themselves or in order to take care of a family member for whom they are responsible to arrange care, such as a parent, child, sibling, or grandparent.

Home health workers are defined as those who provide in-home care to patients under Medicaid. This new law went into effect on July 1, 2021, in order to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The act serves to ensure that the elderly and people with disabilities can receive the home-based care they need without putting their health at risk during the pandemic.


Holiday Leave

Private-sector employers in the Commonwealth of Virginia are not required to provide paid or unpaid holiday leave unless it is specified in an employment agreement. They do not have to pay a higher rate for coming in on a holiday, either. However, public agencies may be required to give public holidays off.More information about Virginia holiday leave may now be found on our Virginia Leave page.


Jury Duty Leave

Employers are not required to compensate you for time spent serving jury duty. However, they cannot require the employee to take vacation time or sick leave for jury duty, nor can they retaliate against or dismiss the person for serving jury duty. To learn more about jury duty leave, please visit our Virginia Leave page.


Voting Leave

The Commonwealth does not have a rule granting paid or unpaid leave to employees to vote in elections. However, they do need to provide, at minimum, unpaid time off to individuals who volunteer to serve as election officers and give reasonable notice. Failure to provide time off to those serving as election officers is considered a misdemeanor crime. Additional insight about the state’s voting leave may now be found on our Virginia Leave page.


Severance Pay

Current labor requirements do not oblige employers to provide you with severance benefits unless it is specified in your contract.

However, employers may still choose to offer severance to their employees at their discretion. If an employer chooses to provide severance benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment agreement.

Also, certain people are ineligible for severance benefits under state law. This includes people who are fired for misconduct and those who resign without just cause.


Unemployment

Under certain circumstances, state residents may be eligible for benefits while they search for another job. You are required to certify that you are unemployed on a weekly basis to receive unemployment. See Virginia State Unemployment Benefits.


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