Legal and Illegal Terminations in Virginia

There are many types of legal termination in Virginia because Virginia is an at-will employment state. In at-will states, most terminations are based on legal reasons to fire an employee, as long as there is no suspicion of discrimination or retaliation in the termination. Types of legal termination of employment in VA include mass layoffs, facility closings or reductions in force. Illegal termination or wrongful termination occurs when you are terminated because of a protected characteristic such as age, sex, disability or veteran status, race, national origin or religion or out of retribution for reporting a safety, legal or ethical issue in the workplace.

Types of Legal Termination in Virginia

Most terminations in Virginia are based on legal reasons for dismissal of employment, since the state follows at-will employment laws. Unless you hold a time-specific contract with your employer, you can be terminated at any time for any reason except discrimination or retaliation. If you are on a time-specific contract with an employer, legal reasons for termination in VA must meet the definition of “just cause.” Just cause establishes legal reasons for terminating employees in Virginia who are working under a specific contract including negligence that shows willful disregard or intent of harm for job responsibilities, damage to company equipment and more.

The legal reasons to fire an employee who is not on a time-specific contact are much broader and allow for the employer to give any or no specific reason for termination if no suspicion of wrongdoing is suspected. The legal reasons to fire an employee are far greater than those that violate equal employment opportunity laws. Even if you are a member of what would be considered a protected class of employees due to personal characteristics, you may be subject to termination so long as your protected characteristics did not play a role in the decision-making process. Learn more about illegal termination by downloading our comprehensive guide today.

Types of Illegal Termination of Employment in Virginia

There are no types of legal termination in Virginia that are based on discrimination or retaliation. The establishment of legal reasons for dismissal of employment is not required, as long as there is no suspected discrimination. Most employers, including those in the private sector, state and local government agencies, schools, labor organizations and employment agencies are bound by laws that prohibit illegal dismissal of employees in VA based on discriminatory practices, backed by the Virginia Division of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Those who believe they have been subject to illegal termination of employment can learn how to file a wrongful termination charge.

Equal opportunity employment laws establish legal reasons to terminate an employee in at will states, as anything outside of discriminatory or retaliatory action. Under the Equal Employment Opportunity laws in Virginia discrimination based on a variety of factors is prohibited. Legal reasons for dismissal of employment in Virginia cannot be based on these characteristics and termination based on these characteristics may be grounds for a wrongful termination complaint. To learn more about the specific reasons you cannot be terminated for, download our comprehensive guide.

These types of legal termination of employment also apply to mass layoffs and reductions in force. For example, it is unlawful for those who are 40 years of age or older to be included in a mass layoff simply because of their age. It is also not legal to terminate employment based on retaliation for speaking out about any wrongdoing you observe and report regarding your employer. The same protections extend to you if you are preparing to make a report or have taken initial steps toward reporting wrongdoing. There still exist legal reasons for dismissal of employment after a complaint is filed, but the burden of proof will be on the employer to establish that another reason for termination existed. If you have been dismissed from employment in VA following the creation or filing of such a report, you may have a claim for wrongful termination that may be investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) or the EEOC. Employees are also protected from discrimination and termination based on any claim you make for discrimination in the workplace.

While the vast majority of employers must adhere to legal reasons for terminating employees in Virginia, the investigating agency may differ based on the size of the employer. It is important to note that while the protections afforded federal employees are the same, timeframes for reporting claims of wrongful termination and reporting processes are different.

Legal reasons for terminating employees in Virginia only apply if your employer has a certain number of employees. If your Virginia employer has fewer than the required number of employees, you may not be eligible for protection under either the Virginia Division of Human Rights. In any case, types of legal termination in VA will specifically guide the investigation process.