Edward F. Younger
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Virginia Wrongful Termination Claims

Overview Of Virginia Wrongful Termination Claims

Virginia Wrongful Termination Claims

The Virginia Supreme Court has recognized a “narrow exception” to the at-will doctrine for claims of wrongful termination based on one of these three grounds:

Courts in Virginia and the District of Columbia have carved out “narrow” exceptions to the at-will doctrine for claims of "wrongful termination" or "wrongful discharge" in violation of public policy. The highest courts of the respective jurisdictions have expressed the public policy exception to the at-will doctrine as follows:

1. The employer discharged the employee for exercising a right created by statute.

2. The employer fired the employee for refusing to commit a crime.

3. The employer violated a public policy explicitly expressed in a statute where the employee is clearly a member of the class of persons protected by the statute. (Note: A 1995 amendment to the Virginia Human Rights Act (VHRA) prevents common-law wrongful termination claims for violations of public policies expressed in the VHRA.)

Virginia is “at-will” unless a contract or statute states otherwise, or unless a public policy exception exists. Employment “at-will” means that the employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any lawful reason, or for no reason at all.

Under Virginia law must identify a Virginia state statute establishing a public policy that was violated by the employer in terminating the employee, which is generally limited to two categories of statutes: (1) statutes that explicitly express a public policy of the Commonwealth; and (2) statutes designed to protect personal property, personal rights, health, safety, or welfare. The employee must also show that she is a member of the class of persons that the statute is intended to benefit or protect.

Under Virginia law, an employee alleging wrongful discharge must make a claim within one year of the alleged wrongful termination. A prevailing employee may be awarded lost pay, and compensatory and punitive damages.
The information on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. Please contact us to obtain legal advice pertaining to your situation.