When the Virginia General Assembly convened for its 401st consecutive year this past January, it marked the first time that Democrats had controlled both legislative chambers, plus the governor’s mansion, since 1993. As a result, it was a very busy session, and a number of important employment-related laws will take effect in the commonwealth beginning on July 1.
Our advocacy partners at Charapp & Weiss LLP created a very helpful guide to many of the new laws, which you can view here. Among them is HB 972, introduced by House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), which decriminalizes simple marijuana possession and prohibits employers from inquiring about any past Virginia convictions for that charge.
Meanwhile, SB 868, authored by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), prohibits discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation or gender identification. The Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling this week in Bostock v. Clayton County that largely reaches the same conclusion – that gay and transgender employees may not be discriminated against based on their orientation or gender identity under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – but the Virginia law provides additional regulatory clarity and enforcement mechanisms to prevent discrimination by employers, and authorizes the state to sue an employer on an aggrieved employee’s behalf.
HB 123, introduced by Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-Woodbridge), and SB 838, led by Sen. Ebbin, provide Virginia employees with the ability to file their own state lawsuits alleging wage theft. Previously, only the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry had that authority, following a referral from an aggrieved employee. The laws also now authorize class action lawsuits over FLSA violations to be filed in state court, which had previously been banned.
HB 689, authored by Del. Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg), requires Virginia employers to list the number of hours worked on any wage statements issued to hourly employees and those who are paid below a FLSA-approved “standard salary,” which is currently $455 per week. HB 798, carried by Del. Karrie Delaney (D-Centreville), provides a broad set of protections to workplace whistleblowers, while Del. Delaney’s HB 984 creates a new ability for a wrongfully-classified employee to file a civil lawsuit in state court. Del. Kathy Tran’s (D-Springfield) HB 1199 prohibits retaliatory action against an employee who challenges their misclassification in court.
SB 480, a bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach), restricts non-compete agreements for low-wage employees, and allows the state to levy fines against employees who try to coerce low-wage employees into entering them.
Please review the Charapp & Weiss summary for more details on all of these laws, and the ways they will impact businesses and employees in the commonwealth. Also please note that Gov. Ralph Northam got the General Assembly to delay the first phase of Virginia’s state minimum wage increase. The minimum wage will now rise from $7.25 to $9.25 on May 1, 2021 instead of January 1, 2021; it will increase in five phases until it reaches $15 an hour on January 1, 2026.Download Bulletin PDF