Protected Classes in Virginia Wrongful Termination Cases

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Virginia employees are protected against wrongful termination by several state and federal employment laws. There are certain protected factors which business owners are prohibited from citing as the reason for a worker’s dismissal, such as gender, age, race, and more.

Workers in the private and federal sectors should be made aware of their employment rights and protections. A diligent and well-practiced lawyer from our firm could help you understand protected classes in Virginia wrongful termination cases to determine whether your boss violated your rights.


Wrongful termination based on gender may involve a woman or man getting treated differently from their coworkers of the opposite sex by their boss. Another example is a woman who is required to do ten times the amount of work as her male peer and is then terminated for failing to meet expectations.

There are different standards for different people, and they are enforced in differing ways. When the reason for a person’s firing or dismissal from a position is their gender rather than their work performance or qualifications, they may be able to hold their employer liable in a Virginia wrongful termination case for discriminating against protected classes.


An unlawful firing based on a person’s age may be explicit or non-explicit, but in general, the laws protect workers over the age of 40 from discrimination. This unfortunately means that if a 25-year-old employee, for example, is fired because of how old they are, they would not be protected. Federal and state laws only protect against terminating a worker for being too old, not for being too young. A wrongful termination based on age could also involve harassment, disparate treatment, and a failure to promote.


It is also illegal for business owners to dismiss an employee based on their race. There is no justifiable reason under any law to subject a worker to adverse treatment in the workplace based on this protected class. Creating a hostile work environment, stripping away responsibilities, and awarding people of other races with promotions or job opportunities can also be cited as evidence of discrimination against protected classes in Virginia wrongful termination cases.


Wrongful termination based on nationality is also illegal, and it is a little more specific than race. For example, Hispanic individuals are frequently discriminated against in the workplace, and these instances are generally classified as national origin cases because the U.S. government defines people of Hispanic origin as Caucasian.

Similarly, if there was a worker from Mali and another from South Africa, the federal government would classify both of them as African American. However, if an employer from Mali terminates a worker from South Africa for unlawful reasons, that would be illegal on the basis of national origin.


Furthermore, a worker cannot be fired for their religious denomination. For instance, there are certain statutes which mandate business owners to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee’s religion. Terminating a worker for wearing religious garments, praying during the day, or taking certain days off for religious observations could all form the basis of a successful wrongful firing case.


Pregnancy is another protected class in many Virginia wrongful termination cases and is often related to gender and disability discrimination. An employer cannot fire someone for becoming pregnant, going through a pregnancy, or for having complications as a result thereof.

Accepting fewer responsibilities out of necessity or taking time off to attend to medical needs should not result in a job loss for an expecting mother. As long as an employee is able to do the essential functions of their job, their pregnancy cannot be a reason for their termination.

Bona Fide Occupational Qualification

An employer cannot terminate someone because they are Muslim or Catholic, for example, unless it is a bona fide occupational qualification, which is an exception to all discrimination rules. It does not have to do with just religion and can also involve gender, age, etc. A common example of this is retirement ages for positions which can be affected by a worker’s potential deterioration over time.

In fact, positions in which people are responsible for other’s lives commonly have mandatory retirement ages. For example, an airline industry’s mandatory retirement age would be a bona fide occupational qualification because pilots under a certain age are generally more capable of flying a plane than others.

Additionally, if someone wants to be hired as a priest at a church, they must practice that establishment’s religion. Similarly, if a men’s clothing store needs to hire a model, they can specify that it must be a man. These would be considered bona fide occupational qualifications for these roles.

However, race can never be a bona fide occupational qualification. There is no circumstance where a person’s race can be the reason for their termination from employment. If this happens, a wrongfully fired worker should find out from a lawyer whether they have a valid claim. To learn more about protected classes in Virginia wrongful termination cases, schedule a consultation with an attorney from the Spiggle Law Firm today.