Virginia Labor Laws: A Complete Guide to Wages, Breaks, Overtime, and More (2024)

In this article, we’ll dive deep into Virginia’s labor laws, with details on all the important aspects of the state’s regulations on your employees.

Whether you’re an employee seeking to understand your rights or a seasoned employer eager to ensure compliance with the law, learning about Virginia’s labor landscape is a great place to start.

Labor laws are designed to protect and empower employees, promote safe working conditions, and foster strong employer-employee relationships.

As part of our 50-part series focusing on labor laws across the United States, this article will break down the complexities of Virginia’s dynamic labor landscape to help you make more informed decisions in the ever-changing workplace.

Meals and Breaks in Virginia

In Virginia, employers are not required to provide breaks to employees over 16. However, employers are not obligated to pay for breaks longer than 20 minutes as long as the employees are free to do as they wish.

Employees must be fully compensated for breaks under 20 minutes. Notably, if an employee’s meal break is interrupted by a job duty or they’re required to work during this period, their employer is obligated to compensate them.

On the other hand, employers in Virginia must provide meal breaks of at least 30 minutes for every five-hour shift to employees who are 14 and 15 years of age. Most Virginia employers usually offer meal and rest breaks to their employees to help boost their productivity in the workplace.

Additionally, Virginia employers are required by the law to provide a lactation break to breastfeeding mothers. The break can be paid or unpaid based on company regulations and policies.

Meal and Break Laws in Virginia

Meal Breaks

No longer than 20 minutes for adult employees and 30 minutes every five hours worked for employees aged 14 and 15

Lactation Breaks

Required for the baby’s first year

Leave and Paid Time Off (PTO) in Virginia

In Virginia, employees are entitled to take a leave of absence without getting penalized for it once they return to work.

Although Virginia employers may be required by the law to provide leave to their employees, employers don’t necessarily have to compensate them for that period. However, some Virginia companies offer paid time off to their employees.

Family and Medical Leave

In Virginia, there are no state or federal laws requiring employers to offer family and medical leave benefits to their employees. However, according to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), all companies with at least 50 employees must allow their employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave every year. This unpaid leave can be used for various reasons, including the following:

Witness Leave

Virginia labor laws require employers to provide paid or unpaid leave to employees who have been summoned to be witnesses in any court trial.

Virginia employers are prohibited from requiring their employees to use their sick, vacation, military, or any other type of leave. However, employees are required to provide timely notice to their employers of the need for witness leave.

Military Leave

Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA), Virginia employers must provide unpaid leave to employees called to active duty or serving in the National Guard or Reserves. Once these employees return from serving in the military or National Guard, they can be reinstated to their respective positions without loss of seniority, pay, or benefits.

Jury Duty Leave

If an employee in Virginia has received a jury summons, the employer must allow them to be absent from work during this period. Most importantly, the employer must not require the employee to use their sick, vacation, military, or any other type of leave for this purpose.

Crime Victim Leave

Virginia employers must provide paid or unpaid leave to employees who have recently been victims of a crime. This leave will be used for preparing, participating, and attending proceedings related to the crime. 

However, employers have the right to request the report from the relevant law enforcement agency and a copy of the notice for every scheduled proceeding. 

Other Types of Leave in Virginia

Virginia has no requirements for the following leave types:

Overtime Regulations in Virginia

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a working week is defined as any seven consecutive 24-hour periods.

In any given working week, employees who work up to 40 hours are compensated hourly per their employment contract or the minimum wage stipulated by the Virginian constitution. Working hours exceeding 40 are regarded as overtime and must be compensated at a higher hourly rate. 

In Virginia, companies usually adhere to federal overtime laws since there are no current state-specific overtime regulations. As per the federal overtime regulations, overtime pay is usually 1.5 times the employee’s regular hourly rate based on the employment contract. If an employee’s regular hourly rate is \$20, their overtime pay will be \$30 for every working hour exceeding 40. 

According to FLSA, four main categories of employees are not protected by the federal overtime regulations since they belong to a bigger category of white-collar professions. These white-collar employees earn at least $684 per week, so they do not have to be paid at the 1.5 rate for working more than 40 hours a week. 

The white-collar professions exempt from the federal overtime laws include:

In addition to the above professions, other occupations are exempt from overtime regulations in Virginia. They are as follows:

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Wages and Benefits in Virginia

Here is a breakdown of the laws governing wages and benefits in Virginia:

Minimum Wage 

Virginia’s current minimum wage laws, which came into effect in May 2021, apply to most employers and employees in the state, except for a few occupations. Under these laws, the minimum wage across the state as of January 2023 is set at $12 per hour, and it will increase each year until it reaches $15 per hour in January 2026. 

Notably, any increase in the federal minimum wage rate automatically leads to an increase in the Virginia minimum wage rate. This is because the Virginia Minimum Wage Act requires the minimum wage rate in the state to be always higher than the federal rate.

Any employer in Virginia who fails to adhere to the minimum wage laws in the state owes their employees unpaid wages and 8% annual interest.

Exceptions to the Minimum Wage in Virginia 

Here is a list of people exempt from the minimum wage laws in Virginia:

Tipped Minimum Wage in Virginia 

Virginia employers must pay tipped employees a cash wage payment of at least $2.13, which must be equivalent to the state’s current minimum wage of $12 per hour when added to tips received during working hours. That is, tipped employees are expected to earn at least $9.87 per hour in tips to make up the difference between the tipped minimum wage and the ordinary hourly minimum wage.

Virginia labor laws do not regulate tip pooling or sharing across the state. Therefore, Virginia employers can require their employees to participate in tip pooling/sharing. 

The main aim of tip pooling/sharing is to help ensure that tips are distributed equally to all employees, including those who don’t receive tips, like main cooks, dishwashers, line cooks, and prep cooks. However, if an employer doesn’t require employees to participate in tip pooling/sharing, they can always do so themselves.

Subminimum Wage in Virginia 

The minimum wage for certain employees like student workers in Virginia is the subminimum wage. Virginia labor laws also regulate this wage rate. Under Virginia subminimum laws, employers can pay certain employees an hourly rate lower than the current minimum wage. These employees include student workers and trainees under the age of 20. 

Per Virginia minimum wage laws, employees can compensate student workers at an hourly rate of at least 85% of the minimum wage. The current minimum wage of $12 per hour thus equates to a subminimum wage of $10.20 per hour. 

Payment Laws in Virginia 

In terms of payment frequency in Virginia, employers are required to pay their employees regularly. That said, most Virginia employers usually provide their employees with payments semi-monthly. This means that employees get their wages every two weeks. However, there is an exception to this rule in the state. 

All employees who earn at least 150% of the state-defined weekly wage can be paid every month, provided they agree in writing before signing the employment contract. 

In Virginia, employers can choose how they pay their employees. Some of the most common wage payment methods across the state include:

Additionally, Virginia employers are allowed to make legal deductions such as taxes on their employees’ wages. All employers are required to indicate the amount and purpose of deductions on the employees’ paychecks. 

Mandatory and Optional Benefits in Virginia 

In Virginia, the law requires employers to provide several mandatory employee benefits. These benefits include Social Security, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation.

Employers may also provide their employees with optional benefits, such as disability insurance, health insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, paid time off (PTO), wellness programs, and retirement savings plans.

Prevailing Wages in Virginia

The state of Virginia has no laws governing pay rates for people employed on government projects or service agreements.

However, under certain circumstances, Virginia employers may be required to pay workers rates established by the federal prevailing rates and regulations. That said, the prevailing wages across the state may be quite different from the standard minimum wage rates. 

For more information on prevailing wages in Virginia, check out the following resources:

Under Virginia subminimum laws, employers can pay certain employees an hourly rate lower than the current minimum wage. These employees include student workers and trainees under the age of 20.

Hiring Practices in Virginia

Here are some of the key hiring practices in Virginia:

Virginia Anti-Discrimination Laws and Equal Employment Opportunities 

Virginia and federal labor laws prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants and employees based on sex, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, and genetic information. All employees are protected from retaliation from their employers and supervisors regarding workplace discrimination and harassment.

This means that Virginia employers are not allowed to discipline, terminate or take any adverse action against an employee for filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Virginia Division of Human Rights. 

Notably, Virginia has several laws that promote equal employment opportunities across the state and prohibit employment discrimination. These laws include the Virginia Human Rights Act, the Virginia Equal Pay Act, the Virginia Family and Medical Leave Act, the Virginia Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and the Virginia Age Discrimination in Employment Act. 

Health and Safety Standards in Virginia

According to Virginia’s labor laws, all employees have the legal right to a safe and healthy working environment. The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) regulates workplace health and safety throughout the state. DOLI enforces the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) program and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).

According to OSHA, all employers are required to:

Additionally, Virginia employers must have a written Safety, Health, and Injury & Illness Protection Plan (IIPP) manual. It’s worth noting that this is not a mandatory requirement under the federal OSHA laws and regulations.

In case of unsafe working conditions, employers and employees can file a report or complain with the following bodies:

Employee Termination and Resignation in Virginia

Like most states, Virginia abides by the at-will employment doctrine and laws. This means employers can terminate an employee’s job contract at any time for any reason or no reason.

This doctrine applies to both temporary and permanent employees. The only exceptions to at-will employment are terminations based on discrimination or retaliation for a rightful action. 

Upon termination, Virginia employers are legally required to provide employees with severance pay, including all the wages owed and benefits. In Virginia, an employee’s final paycheck is due on the regularly scheduled payday or the day before. 

On the other hand, employees in Virginia are free to resign from a job for any reason or no reason without any legal consequences. Additionally, Virginia has right-to-work laws prohibiting employers and labor unions from requiring employees who are not union members to contribute to the costs of union representations.

Unemployment Benefits in Virginia

Virginia, like most states in the country, offers unemployment financial assistance to people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. The Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) administers unemployment benefits throughout the state. 

To qualify for unemployment benefits in Virginia, you must meet the following requirements:

Virginia’s weekly benefit amount (WBA) is usually based on the wages earned in your two highest-earning quarters during your base period. The WBA usually ranges from a minimum of $60 to a maximum of $378 a week. Those eligible for unemployment benefits in Virginia can receive up to 26 weeks of financial assistance in a year. 

For more information regarding Virginia employers’ role in unemployment benefits, check out the following resources:

Penalties for Noncompliance in Virginia

Those who fail to comply with Virginia labor laws may face a wide variety of penalties and fines depending on the specific violation. The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) enforces the state’s labor laws. This body fines those who violate Virginia labor laws up to $1,000 for most offenses. 

However, Virginia employers may be required to pay additional civil damages to employees who have been harmed due to their violations of the state’s labor laws. 

Virginia labor law violations can be reported by phone, online, or in-person to the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) or the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

An employee in Virginia can also enlist the help of an attorney to file a lawsuit if they believe their employer has violated their rights as per the state’s labor laws.

Other Essential Information About Labor Laws in Virginia

In addition to the above categories, Virginia has other labor laws intended to protect employees at the workplace and foster harmonious employer-employee relationships. They include:

The Bottom Line on Virginia Labor Laws

The above guide provides comprehensive and up-to-date information regarding Virginia’s labor laws and key aspects of the state’s employment regulations, such as wages, breaks, and overtime. 

That said, employers and employees in Virginia must stay up to date with these labor laws to ensure compliance at all times. Failure to do so can result in unnecessary legal penalties, employee dissatisfaction, low productivity, and a bad reputation for the company.

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