Virginia Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower laws as they apply to the state of Virginia

A Summary of Virginia Whistleblower Laws

Virginia is an employment-at-will state. This means employees can be discharged from work for any reason or no reason. However, there are a few exceptions to this doctrine that are used to protect employees from wrongful retaliation. These exceptions include common law protections and statutory protections. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to address specific subject areas, e.g., workers’ compensation, whereas common law protections are laws that are created by courts to address subject areas that are not covered by enacted laws.

This is a summary of Virginia Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in Virginia

Common Law Protections for Whistleblowers in Virginia

Virginia has a public policy that is applied as an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. Therefore, it is illegal for employers to discharge an employee for reasons that violate public policy. To determine whether an employee is eligible for protection under the state’s public policy, the courts usually rely on statutory protections, constitutional provisions, and prior judicial opinions. For example, if a statute endorses a worker’s right to collect a wage not less than the minimum wage, an employer who discharges an employee in retaliation for exercising such a right may be found guilty of violating public policy. Virginia protects employees who engage in the following activities from wrongful discharge:

  • Exercising a right afforded by a statute or endorsed by public policy.
  • Refusing to participate in criminal activities.

Statutory Protections for Whistleblowers in Virginia

General Whistleblower Law

Employers are not allowed to discharge, discipline, threaten, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Reporting in good faith a violation of federal or state law or regulation to a supervisor, governmental body, or law-enforcement official.
  • Receiving a request from a governmental body or law-enforcement official to participate in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry.
  • Refusing to participate in criminal activities that may subject the employee to criminal liability.
  • Refusing to carry out a directive by the employer that would result in a violation of federal or state law or regulation. The employee is also required to inform the employer of the reason for the refusal.
  • Providing information or testifying before a governmental body or law-enforcement official conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry into a violation of federal or state law or regulation by the employer.

Also, this statute does not authorize the disclosure of false information, information protected by a law or legal privilege, or disclosures that may violate a federal or state law. Va. Code Ann. § 40.1-27.3.

The Fraud and Abuse Whistleblower Protection Act

Employers are not allowed to discharge, threaten, or in any way discriminate against a whistleblower or a representative of a whistleblower. Also, employers are not allowed to discharge, threaten or in any way discriminate against a whistleblower in retaliation for receiving a request or being subpoenaed by an appropriate authority to participate in an investigation, hearing, inquiry, or court action. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3011.

Also, No governmental agency is allowed to threaten or in any way discriminate or retaliate against a citizen whistleblower for receiving a request or being subpoenaed by an appropriate authority to participate in an investigation, hearing, inquiry, or court action. Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-3010.1.

Asbestos, Lead, and Home Inspection Contractors

Employers are not allowed to penalize or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for filing a complaint or cooperating with the Board or any other governmental agency in enforcing laws concerning asbestos, lead, and home inspection contractors. Va. Code Ann. § 54.1-515.

Nursing and Assisted Living Facilities

No assisted living facility, adult day care center, or child welfare agency is allowed to in any way discriminate against an individual in retaliation for:

  • Attempting to assert a right protected by federal or state law.
  • Assisting a person in asserting a right protected by federal or state law.
  • Complaining to, providing information to, or cooperating in good faith with the Department or any other agency of government, or appropriate entity that is responsible for protecting the rights of residents of assisted living facilities, adult daycare centers, or children in child welfare agencies.

Va. Code Ann. § 63.2-1730.

No assisted living facility, adult day care center, or child welfare agency is allowed to in any way discriminate against an individual in retaliation for reporting in good faith the abuse or neglect of a child or adult. Va. Code Ann. § 63.2-1731.

Occupational Safety and Health

No person is allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a safety or health complaint.
  • Testifying under this statute.
  • Exercising a right afforded by this statute.

Va. Code Ann. § 40.1-51.2:1.

Workers’ Compensation

No person is allowed to discharge an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing or intending to file a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.

Va. Code Ann. § 65.2-308.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Virginia

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, retaliation lawsuits should be filed within 2 years of the retaliatory action.

General Whistleblower Law

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed within 1 year of the retaliatory action.

Workers’ Compensation

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed within 2 years of the retaliatory action.

Occupational Safety and Health

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DLI), Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) within 60 days of the retaliatory action.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Virginia

To file a complaint with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, call (804) 371-2327.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Virginia

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Injunctive relief.
  • Rehiring or reinstatement to the employee’s former position with back pay.
  • Actual damages.
  • Litigation costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

General Whistleblower Law

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Injunctive relief.
  • Reinstatement to the employee’s former position.
  • Lost wages, benefits, and other remuneration, together with interest.
  • Litigation costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.

Asbestos, Lead, and Home Inspection Contractors

Violators of this statute may be found guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor for the first two violations and a Class 6 felony for a third and each subsequent violation within a three-year period. Also, persons who willfully violate the standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Labor and Industry, or the Divisions of Air Pollution Control and Waste Management of the Department of Environmental Quality in a three-year period may be liable for a civil penalty not exceeding $1,000 for an initial violation and $5,000 for each subsequent violation within a three-year period.

The Fraud and Abuse Whistleblower Protection Act

Employers who violate this act may be liable for a civil penalty ranging from $500 to $2500. They may also be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following remedies:

  • Reinstatement to the employee’s former job position or equivalent position.
  • Back pay.
  • Full reinstatement of fringe benefits and seniority rights.
  • Litigation costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.

Occupational Safety and Health

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Injunctive relief.
  • Rehiring or reinstatement to the employee’s former position with back pay.
  • Interest on back pay.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

Workers’ Compensation

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Injunctive relief.
  • Rehiring or reinstatement to the employee’s former position with back pay.
  • Interest on back pay.
  • Actual damages.
  • Attorney’s fees.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

More Virginia Laws

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