Exceptions to the Doctrine of Employment at Will

If you have been following my blog (thank you!), you may know by now that Virginia is an employment at will jurisdiction. This means that your employer can fire you the moment you start working for him in most cases.

Common Law Doctrine of Employment at Will

At common law, employers and employees could terminate their employment relationships with very few restrictions. In Virginia, courts do not want employers and their employees to continue an unwanted employment relationship. You can quit for any reason or no reason, and you do not have to give your employer any advance notice. Similarly, your employer can do the same. Here are some of the more common reasons your employer cannot terminate you or the exceptions to the employment at will doctrine.

Exceptions to the Employment at Will Doctrine: Discrimination

Your employer cannot fire you for exercising your legal rights to work in a nondiscriminatory workplace. Your employer cannot fire you for reporting his discriminatory behavior to the Commonwealth’s Human Rights Commission or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Furthermore, your employer cannot terminate you based on age (over 40), race, gender, genetic information, disability and religion.

Exceptions to the Employment at Will Doctrine: Workers’ Compensation

Your employer cannot terminate you for reporting a job-related illness, occupational disease or on the job injury to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission or to the federal Department of Labor.

Exceptions to the Employment at Will Doctrine: Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Your employer cannot fire you during an excused FMLA absence. Generally, the FMLA allows job restoration if you are exercising a valid FMLA-type of absence or leave.

Exceptions to the Employment at Will Doctrine: Pay and Wages

Your employer can’t fire you for filing a complaint with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry or the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor for unpaid wages or failure to pay overtime, if required.

If you are a Northern Virginia resident looking for an employment lawyer, contact our office today and schedule an appointment in our conveniently located Fairfax office.

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