Major changes to federal employment laws are often highly publicized, but staying on top of state laws and understanding how they differ from federal laws is a monumental but necessary task that all businesses must undertake to avoid fines and penalties. Here is a look at the state employment laws every Virginia employer needs to know.
The Virginians With Disabilities Act
Many employers are already familiar with the Americans With Disabilities Act, a federal law applicable to all employers who have more than 15 employees. It bans discrimination against individuals with certain types of disabilities. It is a complex law that can be very time-consuming and complicated for employers to understand and can therefore, negatively impact their compliance.
The fact that the Americans With Disabilities Act applies only to businesses with more than 15 employees does not mean that smaller employers should not pay attention to this matter. The Virginians with Disabilities Act is very similar to the Americans With Disabilities Act and applies to every employer regardless of its number of employees.
The Virginians With Disabilities Act requires employers of all sizes to provide qualifying individuals with reasonable accommodations unless doing so would cause an “undue burden.” This law operates on the idea that accommodations that cost more than $500 meet the definition of creating an undue burden when it comes to employers who have fewer than 50 employees.
Virginia Wage Payment Act
The Virginia Wage Payment Act requires salaried employees to be paid at least one time per month, while hourly employees have to be paid once every two weeks, or more often if the employer desires. It also specifies that employees who have been discharged from their duties have to be paid on or before the same date they would have been paid for their work if their employment had continued.
This law also places restrictions on the way that wages are withheld from paychecks. For example, employers are not permitted to withhold any part of an employee’s wage or salary unless it is for wage, withholding or payroll taxes and is done in accordance with the law. However, an exception can be made if they receive written and signed authorization from the employee in question. Employers must also take steps to make sure that the amount they withhold does not push the employee’s hourly wage beneath the current federal minimum wage.
Those employers who fail to comply with the Virginia Wage Payment Act may face steep penalties. If the value of the wages that the employee earned but was not paid is less than $10,000, it will be a Class 1 misdemeanor; in cases where the value exceeds $10,000, the violation could be considered a Class 6 felony.
Pre-Employment Criminal Checks
Although there are currently no federal laws on the books that specifically ban employers from asking job candidates about any arrests or convictions, these practices have long been discouraged by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Virginia law, however, only restricts such inquiries to arrests or criminal charges against job applicants that have been expunged from their records or sealed.
This means that employers can ask an applicant about their arrest or conviction history, as long as they do it with great care to avoid questioning them about any charges that may have been expunged. However, this should always be done bearing in mind that the inquiries may result in liability for disparate impact as it disproportionately affects minority applicants. Willfully violating this law could be punishable with a fine of $2500, up to 12 months in jail or both.
It is a very delicate area in which employers must tread carefully. They should only make such inquiries when it is job-related and there is a genuine business necessity for the information.
Virginia Laws Related to Disclosure of Social Media Account User Information
Virginia law prohibits employers from forcing any current or prospective employee to provide them with their username and password to any social media website or to add other employees, administrators or supervisors to their list of contacts or friends on their personal social media accounts.
However, in cases where employers inadvertently obtain this information, such as through their monitoring of company-issued laptops or smartphones, the employer will not be liable for possessing the information. Nevertheless, they are still banned from using it to access the employee’s social media account.
In cases where there is a formal investigation into an employee’s potential violation of certain laws or regulations or written policies at work, an employer may be allowed to ask employees to disclose the relevant usernames and passwords.
Virginia Laws Related to Employees Who Have Been Victims of a Crime
Virginia law specifies that employers must permit any employee who has been a victim in a crime to be excused from work to attend every criminal proceeding related to the crime in question. Although employers do not have to compensate their employees for these absences, they are prohibited from firing them for exercising the right to attend criminal proceedings in cases in which they are the victim.
Moreover, an employer cannot discriminate against employees who leave work to attend these proceedings and may only limit the duration of such leave if it creates an undue hardship on their business.
Ensure Your Business Is Fully Compliant With Virginia Employment Laws
Staying aware of constantly evolving employment regulations at the state and federal level can be challenging. The consultants at Business Benefits Group (BBG) can help your company ensure compliance with all applicable laws. Contact BBG today to schedule a consultation.