Victim of Police misconduct? Click here


Sometimes it is difficult to know when your employer has impeded your rights as a worker in Virginia. Perhaps they breached their conditions of employment or state law. Regardless of your working status, whether you are a migrant worker or a United States citizen, and whether you work in the public or private sectors, you have rights. Immigrant workers and undocumented workers are eligible for workers' compensation in Virginia. There are fundamental conventions that protect your occupational health and safety, such as the ILO conventions and investment agreements. As the Commonwealth of Virginia seeks to grow its economy and create new jobs, it must do so with the rights of its workers in mind. A labor rights lawyer in Virginia can help if your rights as a worker have been compromised.

What Rights Do You Have as a Worker in Virginia?

Virginia law entitles employees to certain rights. These rights can vary depending on your classification. Full-time employees generally have more rights than part-time employees and contract employees, such as paid leave and benefits. Before you file a worker's compensation claim, you must understand what rights your employer owes you.

Minimum Wages and Legal Rights

On January 1, 2023, Virginia’s minimum wage increased to $12 per hour. This is significantly higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Tipped staff in Virginia, however, receive only the federal minimum of $2.13 per hour. As legal protection for these tipped workers, their employers must supplement their tipped earnings so that they earn at least the state minimum hourly wage. 

Virginia's minimum wage is scheduled to reach $15 per hour by 2026. You can expect the following minimum wage increases:

  • On January 1, 2025, the minimum wage will increase to $13 per hour
  • On January 1, 2026, the minimum wage will increase to $15 per hour

Certain workers and occupations are exempt from Virginia's minimum wage, and employers may pay them below the current minimum. These occupations include:

  • Seasonal workers
  • Young workers (under 18)
  • Student workers
  • Employees with disabilities
  • Minimum wage-exempt organizations

However, employers must pay all workers classified as employees the greater of the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25 or 75% of Virginia's minimum wage.

Work Hours Allocation Rights

Employers must give a minimum number of breaks to employees who work a certain number of hours. For example:

  • Those who work at least six hours consecutively must generally receive at least a 30-minute meal break
  • Those who earn meal breaks are not paid for working during those breaks unless otherwise specified
  • Employers should not adjust meal breaks to make up for an employee arriving to work late or leaving early

This is not an exhaustive list of work break requirements. For example, Virginia's Department of Human Resource Management Policy 1.25 Hours of Work also protects the rights of pregnant workers and nursing mothers.

If you believe your employer has failed to provide you with the proper breaks afforded by state or federal labor laws, a Richmond workers' rights lawyer can help you evaluate your options.

Overtime Pay Rights

A new overtime law went into effect in Virginia in 2021. The Virginia Overtime Wage Act requires employers to pay 150% of a non-exempt employee's regular wages for all time worked in excess of 40 hours each week.

The new law includes a three-year statute of limitations for employees who were wronged under the act to file legal claims against employers who fail to abide by this law. This statute of limitations is longer than the two years previously afforded by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Equal Pay to Men and Women

Virginia passed its Equal Pay Act to ensure equal pay for equal work, similar to its federal counterpart. Virginia's act mandates that people must be paid the same amount for the same work within the same company, regardless of their sex. It is meant to halt discrimination based on an employee's sex or gender. Virginia's implementation of this discrimination law and others help make the state a better workplace.

Paid Leave for Workers

Virginia law states that each employee accrues at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work. It also states that sick leave can be carried over from one year to the next so long as no more than 40 hours of paid sick leave are accrued or used in a single year unless the employer permits.

The law also states the following:

  • Exempt employees are assumed to work 40 hours per week to determine sick leave accrual
  • Paid sick leave begins accruing immediately upon hire
  • Employees who enter into collective bargaining agreements that require the minimum paid sick leave to be distributed shall not be entitled to additional paid sick leave

The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their benefits and rights under this law.

Protection Against Discrimination and Harassment

Virginia prohibits employers with at least 15 employees from discriminating against employees on the job. Employees are protected under the Virginia Values Act, the Virginia CROWN Act, and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA). 

These laws help protect workers' civil rights and defend against discrimination and harassment in the workplace. 

This means that employers can't discriminate or refuse to hire employees based on their color, race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status, childbirth, lactation, religion, age, national origin, or veteran status.

Employers with six to 14 employees are forbidden from firing someone for these reasons, though they may elect not to hire them.

Safe Workplace Conditions

Virginia employers have to keep their places of employment free from certain hazards. These include hazards that are likely to cause physical harm or death to employees. The employers also must comply with related occupational safety and health rules.

Employers are required to adhere to certain safety-related guidelines, including:

  • Notifying employees if they have been exposed to excessively toxic environments.
  • Posting any citations received for violations of safe workplace conditions.
  • Reporting a work-related fatality within eight hours and certain serious injuries within 24 hours.

Virginia Labor Organization

Virginia has a statute governing collective bargaining. Virginia is a "right to work" state. This means that no employer can force you to join a union or pay any costs to a labor union. 

Before 2021, Virginia prohibited labor unions from operating within the state. A summary of Virginia statutes relating to labor organizations and core labor standards can help you understand the laws surrounding the recent introduction of unions.

Hire an Experienced Attorney to Deal With Your Workers Compensation Case

Worker's compensation claims can be complicated, and the laws are not always worker-friendly. If you are facing a worker's compensation case, you want an experienced and savvy worker's comp lawyer on your side. The legal team at Commonwealth Law Group understands the intricacies of Virginia's employment laws. Contact us today to discuss your case.

If you have been injured at work or through the negligence of another individual or entity, contact us at (804) 999-9999 or or use the form below to connect with our legal team. We will fight to get you the justice you deserve.