Here's everything you need to know about the right-to-work law, at-will employment and these mean in Virginia.
What is right to work?
The right-to-work law, which is also known as the Workplace Freedom or Workplace Choice law, is a law that grants workers the right to choose whether or not they'd like to join a union in their workplace. Likewise, it also makes it optional for workers already in unionized workplaces to pay union dues and other membership fees that are required for union representation (whether they're involved in the union or not).
What is at-will employment?
Every state with the exception of Montana is an at-will employment state. Under the at-will employment policy, either the employer or the employee can terminate employment at any time for any reason (unless it's illegal and proven wrongful termination, which is hard to do) without consequence — unless the employee has a contract or a union agreement that states otherwise.
Is Virginia a right to work state?
Virginia is, in fact, a right-to-work state.
The law reads: "It is hereby declared to be the public policy of Virginia that the right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or labor organization... Any agreement or combination between any employer and any labor union or labor organization whereby persons not members of such union or organization shall be denied the right to work for the employer, or whereby such membership is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or whereby any such union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any enterprise, is hereby declared to be against public policy and an illegal combination or conspiracy. "
Can you be fired for any reason in Virginia?
Virginia is indeed an at-will state, which means that you can be fired for any just reason at any time. Proving wrongful termination isn't always an easy feat, but your employer can only fire you for legal reasons.
What are important Virginia labor laws?
Here are three important labor laws in Virginia of which you should be aware.
1. Workplace Safety Laws
Employees in the state of Virginia have the right to request an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspection if they feel that their employer has committed safety violations. And it is illegal for employers to fire, discipline or retaliate against these employees for calling out their employers for unsafe or hazardous working conditions.
While Virginia does not have any state-specific laws with regards to overtime, it follows the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
"The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State and local governments," according to the U.S. Department of Labor. "Covered nonexempt workers are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. Overtime pay at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay is required after 40 hours of work in a workweek."
While Virginia does not have a state-specific law that requires employers to offer employees any pregnancy leave at all, employers covered by the Virginia Human Rights Act must provide the same leave benefits to women who are "disabled" by pregnancy as the benefits that are provided to other employees with temporary disabilities.
The Virginia Human Rights Act specifically covers employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status and disability.
"This means that employers can provide leave for employees with temporary disabilities, including pregnancy disability, with or without pay, or not provide it at all, as long as all employees are treated the same in their requests for temporary disability leave," according to Business and Legal Resources.
What are some resources for Virginia employees?
To learn more about employment laws in Virginia, check out these resources:
- Virginia Employment Laws — Find Law
- Virginia Laws — Find Law
- Unions — Find Law
- Employment Law — Find Law
- Virginia Employment and Labor Laws — Employment Law Handbook
- Virginia Department of Labor and Industry
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.