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06.26.2024 Legal News

Virginia Employment Law Updates for 2024: Key Changes You Need to Know

Historically, the month of June brings with it multiple and detailed notices to Virginia-based employers regarding newly enacted or revised statutes with which they must comply.  More recently, the number of such legal notices has dropped from a deluge to a trickle. While there will always be annual updates – and this year is no exception – the focus and substance of those changes has shifted from brand-new and “Pay Attention” to clarify and confirm. Below is a quick guide to relevant changes, effective July 1, 2024, that are most applicable to employers in the Commonwealth.

Virginia Human Rights Act, Virginia Code sections 2.2-3900, et seq.added or revised language in several key areas. First, the Act extended protections against unlawful discriminatory practices based on ethnic origin, adding it to a detailed list of protected characteristics that also include race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age, military status, disability, and national origin.[1]

Second, section 2.2-3907, entitled “Procedures for a charge of unlawful discrimination; notice; investigation; report; conciliation; notice of the right to file a civil action; temporary relief,” was revised to (a) extend the time for filing a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights to 300 days from the date when the alleged discriminatory practice or action occurred; and (b) allow the state court having jurisdiction over any such complaint or charge of discrimination to accept a Notice of Right to Sue issued by the EEOC in lieu of a similar notice being issued by the Office of Civil Rights.

Third, section 2.2-3908entitled “Civil actions by private parties,” now specifically provides that upon receipt of the appropriate Notice under section 2.2-3907, the plaintiff has only 90 days to file suit.

These changes bring the state procedure in line with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s published deadlines and prerequisites, while also easing the (large) workload for the State Office of Civil Rights.

Virginia Code section 40.1-27.4, entitled “Discipline for employee's medicinal use of cannabis oil prohibited,” was amended to expand the scope of employers to whom it applies, while also excluding a specific group of employees.  Effective July 1, the group of employers who are “prohibited from discharging, disciplining, or discriminating against an employee for such employee’s lawful use of cannabis oil pursuant to a valid written certification issued by a practitioner for the treatment or to eliminate the symptoms of the employee's diagnosed condition or disease” extends beyond just private employers to include all public employers within the Commonwealth.

The only employees who will be excluded from this expanded pool are law-enforcement officers.  Interestingly, the definition of “law-enforcement officer” in Virginia is fairly expansive and includes, among several others, full- or part-time employees of a police department or sheriff's office; special agents of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority; police agents appointed an applicable railroad company; Virginia Marine Police; Department of Wildlife Resources’ full-time conservation police officers; and Virginia Lottery investigators.

Importantly, the revised definitions do not restrict or limit an employer’s ability to take adverse action against any work impairment caused by, or possession of, cannabis oil during work hours.

Virginia Code section 40.1-28.7:11, entitled “Veterans benefits and services poster,” is a new statute that directs the creation (by the Commonwealth) of a workplace poster describing all benefits and services available to veterans in Virginia.  The poster will include information about each of the following:

  1. Department of Veterans Services' programs, contact information, and website address;
  2. Substance abuse and mental health treatment services;
  3. Educational, workforce, and training resources;
  4. Tax benefits;
  5. Eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits under state or federal law;
  6. Legal services; and
  7. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Crisis Line.

Although employers are not obligated to display this poster, they are encouraged to do so and may request a copy from the Department of Labor.  Any employer choosing to display this poster should post it in the same location as all other legally mandated employee notices.

Virginia Code section 40.1-113, entitled “Child labor offenses; civil penalties,” was amended to increase the applicable penalties for employers who violate child labor laws.  The minimum penalty will increase to $500, with a maximum penalty of $2,500, for most such violations.  In the event of a violation resulting in serious injury or death of a child, the maximum penalty will now be $25,000.  How the penalty is calculated, however, remains the same and will depend in part on both the size of the business and the gravity of the violation.

This year was more remarkable for what did not make it past either the General Assembly or the Governor’s desk, including bills addressing minimum wage increases, minimum wage and overtime wage violations, employers’ obligations in response to unemployment compensation claims, paid sick leave, harassment and discrimination prevention training, and inquiries into a prospective employee’s salary or wage history.  Most, if not all of these, likely will be reintroduced before the end of this year.  We will continue to monitor those filings and provide updates when needed.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about existing employment laws in Virginia or would like more information about any of the changes outlined above, please contact our team here at Williams Mullen.

[1]The same bill also extended protections based on ethnic origin to Virginia Code sections 8.01-49.1, entitled “Liability for defamatory material on the Internet,” and 18.2-57, entitled “Assault and battery.”