A district judge for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia recently dismissed a case due to the plaintiff’s failure to file suit within the allotted time identified in the notice of right to sue (NRTS) that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued. Moyer v. Shirley Contracting Company, LLC, No. 1:21-cv-00046 (August 18, 2021) highlights the importance of recognizing when the clock begins ticking on the deadline to file suit and how attention to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure can assist in litigation.
Over the past 16 months, a quiet labor and employment law revolution has been underway in Virginia. In the first quarter of 2021, the Virginia General Assembly doubled down legislative initiatives, imposing several additional labor and employment changes that will present challenges for many employers across the Commonwealth. By way of example, consider the new Virginia Overtime Wage Act (VOWA), Va. Code § 40.1-29.2, the wage and hour implications of which significantly deviate from requirements in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The Virginia Overtime Wage Act (VOWA), Va. Code § 40.1-29.2, becomes effective July 1, 2021, and will significantly alter employers’ wage and hour obligations in Virginia. At first glance, the VOWA appears to track federal law under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Upon closer examination, however, this new law contains important nuances that deviate from the FLSA, such as a new method for calculating the regular rate of pay, an extended statute of limitations, automatic liquidated damages, possible treble damages, and the effective elimination of popular pay schemes.
On April 21, 2021, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed into law House Bill No. 2312 and Senate Bill No. 1406, moving the date of recreational marijuana legalization in Virginia up to July 1, 2021. The legalization movement, which has increased in momentum in the Commonwealth since Democrats gained a majority in the legislature, culminated in February 2021, when the General Assembly passed recreational legalization measures with an effective date of January 2024.
States have been busy when it comes to marijuana laws. Before the mid-2010s, employers tended not to worry about state marijuana laws because of marijuana’s illegal status under federal law. However, those days are over, and state marijuana legalization laws continue to affect how employers can run their workplaces.
Virginia has joined California as the second state to enact a comprehensive data privacy law. On March 2, 2021, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed the Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA) into law. The VCDPA does not go into effect until January 1, 2023, but the broad privacy mandate will have an immediate impact on compliance efforts for many Virginia businesses.
In November 2020, voters in five states (Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota) voted in favor of legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana. Since then, there have been several developments within the marijuana legalization world that employers may want to keep an eye on as they move forward in 2021.
In July 2020, the Safety and Health Codes Board of the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry approved an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19. In so doing, Virginia became the first state to issue such a temporary standard. On January 13, 2021, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board enacted a permanent standard for COVID-19. The “Final Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus that Causes COVID-19” will be enforced by the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health program (VOSH) and is anticipated to take effect on January 27, 2021.
Several states’ minimum wage rates will increase in 2021. The following chart lists the state (and certain major locality) minimum wage increases for 2021—and future years, if available—along with the related changes in the maximum tip credit and minimum cash wage for tipped employees.
Elections in the United States are scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Not only will the office of president of the United States be contested, but all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate are up for grabs. At the state level, elections will be held for the governorships of 11 U.S. states and 2 U.S. territories.
The labor and employment law revolution in the Commonwealth of Virginia has provided robust protection against unlawful discrimination as well as a comprehensive enforcement scheme. As part of that revolution, the state enacted Senate Bill 712, which amended the Virginia Human Rights Act (VHRA) to require a covered employer to provide reasonable accommodation for the known limitations of an employee related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless such an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
On July 15, 2020, the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s Safety and Health Codes Board approved an Emergency Temporary Standard for COVID-19 to be enforced by the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health program (VOSH). Virginia is the first state to adopt a specific standard intended to protect workers and “to control, prevent, and mitigate the spread of [COVID-19]” in the workplace.
On April 9, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam signed House Bill (HB) 330, Virginia’s first law banning covenants not to compete against “low-wage employees.”
On April 12, 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signaled his approval of—but has not yet signed—legislation (House Bill 972) that would decriminalize simple possession of marijuana. The impact of decriminalization on Virginia’s criminal process has been the highlight of the legislation, but the bill would also include restrictions that impact the application process for employers operating in the Commonwealth.
In our previous article—What Virginia Employers Might Have Missed While Managing COVID-19: The Silent Labor and Employment Law Revolution—we detailed some of the most impactful labor and employment law changes enacted by the Virginia General Assembly this year. These included an increased minimum wage, local-level public employee bargaining, a new cause of action for misclassification, and an overhauled employment discrimination framework. But Virginia’s labor and employment law revolution did not stop there.
Virginia has long billed itself as a business-friendly state with low taxes and commonsense employment regulations. But recent changes—largely adopted with little fanfare or scrutiny—are poised to revolutionize the labor and employment landscape in Virginia. These changes—compounded by the likely recession resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic—will present tremendous challenges for Virginia employers.
On March 23, 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed Executive Order No. 53 (EO-53), which restricts the operation of certain non-essential businesses including restaurants and recreational and entertainment businesses. The order goes into effect on March 24, 2020, at 11:59 p.m., and will remain in effect until at least 11:59 p.m. on April 23, 2020.
On March 21, 2019, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam approved an amendment and reenactment of Virginia Code § 8.01-413.1. The amendment requires employers to produce certain employment documents upon receipt of a written request from a current or former employee or employee’s attorney and awards possible damages to the employee if the employer fails to do so within the prescribed timeframe. Since the amendment became effective on July 1, 2019, Virginia employers are seeing an uptick in requests for the applicable documents.
In 2019, a number of states’ minimum wage rates will increase.