In Virginia, sexual discrimination law in the workplace is outlined in the Virginia Human Rights Act. This act prohibits employers from discriminating against its employees on the basis of sex.
Under this law, “employers” are those who have six or more employees. This differs from federal law because Title VII applies to employers who have fifteen or more employees. The law specifically covers discrimination on the basis of sex or gender and includes pregnancy, childbirth and pregnancy-related conditions.
Anyone who wants to file a claim against an employer needs to do so within 180 days of the alleged incident with the Virginia Council on Human Rights. Filing a complaint consists of filling out a Complaint Questionnaire which can be obtained from the Council or online. The Council will then send a copy of your complaint to your employer and give him or her chance to respond.
Then, the council will assign a Compliance Officer to your case who will gather facts about your complaint. The Officer will also make a decision of either reasonable cause or no reasonable cause to believe that your rights have been violated. If the Officer finds reasonable cause, you and your employer will enter a settlement phase. If this doesn’t work, the case will go to a public hearing before a Hearing Officer.
You can choose to go through federal courts instead of the Virginia Council on Human Rights, but you’ll need to file with the EEOC to request a “Right to Sue” letter first. In Virginia, you are unable to take the case to private court. If the Council and the Hearing Officer cannot agree on a decision, however, the Council may decide to file the case in court on your behalf.
It’s up to both employers and employees to know their rights and responsibilities in terms of sexual discrimination law in the workplace. Employers should also always have a current Virginia Complete Labor Law Poster posted in the workplace.
As I trudge through the various states’ employment discrimination laws in the workplace, I have found a wide variety of laws. Some states broaden the scope of federal statutes enough that it boggles the mind while others give employees no more protection than that of the federal employment discrimination in the workplace. Virginia falls in between the two extremes.
Virginia’s employment discrimination laws in the workplace make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, ancestry, association with disabled individuals, childbirth or related medical conditions, color, disability (physical or mental), marital status, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, or sex.
Smaller businesses are also held accountable under Virginia’s employment discrimination laws in the workplace. This includes businesses with six or more employees.
Claims in Virginia can be filed with one of two agencies: the state agency, the Virginia Council on Human Rights (VCHR), or the federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These agencies will work together to resolve you claim as long as you file in one agency and request that your claim be cross-filed with the other. The VCHR can be contacted at (804) 225-2292 and the EEOC can be contacted at one of three offices:
- Washington D.C.
Claims through the VCHR must be filed within 180 days of the date of the discriminatory act while you have 300 days of this act to file with the EEOC. Because of the difference in deadlines it is best to first file through the VCHR and then have them cross-file your claim with the EEOC. File early to avoid delays due to legalities in the filing process as these delays can push your past the deadline. Retaining an attorney is a big help, but is not required.
If your claim is not resolved by these agencies, you may need to pursue it in court. In both state and federal cases, you must first file with the appropriate agency and receive a release from that agency. The EEOC will release your claim by giving you one of two documents: “Dismissal and Notice of Rights,” or “Right to Sue.” A claim filed in federal court must be filed within 90 days of receiving either of the above documents. Lawsuits filed in Virginia’s state court system have a 180 day time limit from the date that the discriminatory act occurred.
None of Virginia’s employment discrimination in the workplace laws really stand out when compared to those of other states, but this state still provides a wider range of coverage than the federal government does. That, combined with the state-supported agency to investigate and resolve claims gives acceptable protection for employees.
I found that the Federal government closely regulates and monitors discrimination in the workplace. The Federal government allows state governments to regulate their own businesses in order to ensure that the businesses fall within state guidelines as well as Federal guidelines.
Under the Virginia Human Rights Act, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status or disability (physical or mental.) In the event that an employer is found to have discriminated against an employee or potential employee, the employer may be fined or issued a citation for the violation.
If you are a Virginia employee and believe that you have been discriminated against, you can either file a claim with the state or Federal government. The state agency is the Virginia Council of Human Rights (VCHR). The Federal agency is the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Both agencies have a “work-sharing” agreement, which means that if you file a claim with one agency, you can elect to have it cross-filed with the other.
While not all employers are covered under the Federal law, the state of Virginia covers some smaller employers that slip below the federal radar. If your workplace has between 6 and 14 employees in the State of Virginia and you believe that you have been discriminated against, you will want to file your claim directly with the state. If your organization has more than 15 employees, then you will want to file with the Federal government in most circumstances.
It is important that you file your claim within 180 days of the date that you believe you were discriminated against if you are filing with the VCHR. However, if you want to file first with the EEOC, then you have a full 300 days to file a claim.