The Supreme Court of Virginia, in Francis v. National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences, Inc., No. 160267 (Feb. 23, 2017), reaffirmed that the public policy exception to Virginia’s employment at-will doctrine is a narrow one. In Francis, the court held that to state a valid claim of wrongful termination based on public policy, an employee must allege either that the termination itself violated the public policy stated in the relevant statute, or that the employer prevented the employee from exercising statutory rights.
Articles Discussing General Topics In Virginia Labor & Employment Law.
The Supreme Court of Virginia recently issued an opinion applying the principles of res judicata to affirm the dismissal of a contract claim. In The Funny Guy, LLC v. Lecego, LLC, No. 160242 (Feb. 16, 2017), the plaintiff filed a second lawsuit asserting alternative legal claims after its first lawsuit was dismissed. The court held that if alternative claims qualify for joinder under the “same transaction or occurrence” standard, they likewise constitute res judicata under Rule 1:6 of the Supreme Court of Virginia. This decision has significant implications for litigants in Virginia courts, especially in cases involving settlement agreements.
The Supreme Court of Virginia, in Johnston v. William E. Wood & Associates, Inc., No. 151160 (June 2, 2016), recently answered the question of what constitutes “reasonable notice” for terminating an at-will employee. The question has been an open one for over 100 years in Virginia. The court’s answer: Reasonable notice is “effectual notice,” and can be immediate, such as when an employer tells an employee that her employment is terminated “effective immediately.” In rendering this decision, the court reinforced the Commonwealth’s strong adherence to the traditional employment-at-will doctrine, and further buttressed its reputation as “employer-friendly.”
Federal OSHA’s Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements (effective January 1, 2015) require employers to report in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and loss of an eye within 24 hours.
Effective July 1, 2015, employers in Virginia will be prohibited from requiring, requesting, or causing a current or prospective employee to disclose the username and password to the individual’s social media account. The new law, signed by Governor Terry McAuliffe on March 23, 2015, also prohibits employers from requiring an employee to add another employee, a supervisor, or an administrator to the list or contacts associated with the individual’s social media account or changing the privacy settings.
As many state legislatures open their 2015 sessions, Virginia has become the first this year — and most likely not the last — to continue the legislative trend towards protecting applicants’ and employees’ personal online accounts. As the 19th state to enact password protection legislation, Virginia has added even more complexity to the patchwork of state law restrictions on such access.1 Governor Terry McAuliffe signed H.B. 2081 into law on March 23, 2015, and the new law becomes effective on July 1, 2015.
On February 13, 2014, in Bostic v. Rainey, Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that any Virginia laws banning same-sex marriage or prohibiting recognition of same-sex marriages – including Article I, Section 15-A of the Virginia Constitution and Sections 20-45.2 and 20-45.3 of the Virginia Code – are unconstitutional under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. If upheld, the ruling, in conjunction with the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor v. United States, means that Virginia employees who choose to marry a person of the same sex would now have the benefit of spousal status under both state and federal law for the purposes of medical plan coverage, 401(k) and retirement plans, and entitlement to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
In Assurance Data, Inc. v. John Malyevac, No. 121989 (Sept. 12, 2013), the Supreme Court of Virginia held that the Fairfax County Circuit Court had been too quick to rule on the enforceability of a covenant not to compete, reversing the court’s dismissal of the employer’s complaint and remanding the case to the trial court. This ruling signals an important shift in the procedural and strategic landscape surrounding non-compete agreements in the Commonwealth, as the court has effectively limited a frequently used device for challenging and disposing of non-compete claims early in litigation.
Virginia has enacted two new laws that are intended to enhance employee protections, particularly during union organizing drives in the Commonwealth. One law guarantees the right to vote in a secret ballot election. The other law limits those situations in which an employer may be required to disclose certain information to third parties about current and former employees. Both laws, which are effective July 1, 2013, were spearheaded by Delegate Barbara Comstock, who characterized them as “…a victory for the rights of workers and for protecting employees in the workplace.”
The Virginia Supreme Court has spoken again on the calculation of damages in a complex employment contract case. In Online Resources Corp. v. Lawlor, No. 120208 (Va. Jan. 10, 2013), the court addressed the expert qualifications required for the valuation of equity following the termination of the chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) (“executive”) of a publicly-traded company, as well as the applicability of Delaware Corporations Law to related change in control (CIC) provisions.
In VanBuren v. Grubb, No. 120348 (Nov. 1, 2012), a sharply divided Supreme Court of Virginia surprised employers by holding that a common law tort action for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy may be brought against an individual manager or supervisor.
In a case of first impression, the Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that supervisors and managers can be held individually liable for public policy wrongful discharge under Virginia common law. In VanBuren v. Grubb, No. 120348 (Nov. 1, 2012), the Court held that a former employee of a medical practice could sue her former supervisor individually after he allegedly discharged her for refusing his sexual advances.
An at-will employee must show a customer used â€œimproper methodsâ€ beyond merely â€œactions solely motivated by spite, ill will and maliceâ€ to prove her employerâ€™s primary customer tortiously interfered with her employment contract, the Virginia Supreme Court has ruled. The Court reversed a jury verdict awarding $900,000 in damages to a doctor for tortious interference, finding the pressure inherent in her employerâ€™s relationship with its customer and primary source of revenue cannot rise to the level of â€œimproper methodsâ€ needed for an at-will employee to show that the third party tortiously interfered with her employment contract.