Virginia Employee Activities Protected against Workplace Retaliation

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There are many activities that are protected by state and federal law such that employers cannot retaliate against employees for engaging in these activities. Most of these protections derive from federal law and protect employees who, for example, complain about discrimination, request accommodations for a disability, or report certain other kinds of illegal activity.

You should consult a member of our dedicated legal team to improve your understanding of Virginia employee activities protected against workplace retaliation. A workplace retaliation attorney from our firm could help you investigate your employer’s actions to determine whether they violated any of your employment rights.

Protected Behaviors and Relevant Laws

Federal laws protect a variety of employee activity from retaliation. For example, requesting a reasonable accommodation for a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is within a worker’s rights and should not be cause for disciplinary action. Likewise, firing an employee for taking time off work because they are pregnant or medically ill would be illegal under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as well as the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Additionally, punishing a worker for submitting a complaint of sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of their gender, national origin, religion, or race, is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Another example of protected activity is workplace safety complaints. Employees who file complaints protected by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) cannot legally be fired or punished for doing so. Retaliating against a worker because they filed a workplace safety complaint is a violation of OSHA.

In addition, Virginia state courts recognize a common law claim of termination in violation of public policy (also called a Bowman claim). This is a narrow exception to at-will employment, which prohibits Virginia employers from firing employees for exercising employment rights, for reasons that violate an express public policy; or for refusing to participate in criminal acts.

Speaking with an HR Representative

A worker who speaks with a Human Resources (HR) representative about certain kinds of wrongdoing that is occurring within the company would be protected against retaliation. For example, employees who complain to HR about being discriminated against or harassed on the basis of their membership in a protected class (race, religion, sex, and national origin) are protected by law.

OSHA Rights

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is a law that regulates workplace safety standards and seeks to establish and preserve safe, healthy working conditions. OSHA requires business owners to provide working environments that are free from certain risk and dangers. An employee could file a complaint if they believe their employer is violating the law by requiring them to work in an unsafe environment.

It follows that employers cannot fire or retaliate against workers who file complaints against them. In other words, if an employee blows the whistle on workplace safety issues by filing an OSHA complaint, they cannot legally be fired or punished for doing so. Retaliating against a worker because they filed a workplace safety complaint is itself a violation of OSHA.

Ask an Attorney about which Virginia Employee Activities Are Protected against Workplace Retaliation

Virginia employees are protected under federal law from workplace retaliation for engaging in a variety of “protected activity” including (but not limited to) informing their employer of a pregnancy, taking maternity or FMLA leave, filing an OSHA complaint, complaining of discrimination, and certain forms of whistleblowing.

If you believe that your boss wrongfully disciplined you for engaging in a protected behavior, you should consider reaching out to a skilled attorney from the Spiggle Law Firm. Call our team today to learn more about Virginia employee activities protected against workplace retaliation.