The Virginia Human Rights Act (Title 2.2, chapter 39 of the Code of Virginia), protects employees from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, and disability from unlawful discrimination. This also includes unlawful discrimination in educational institutions and real estate transactions.
The Virginia Human Rights Act allows for private rights of action in limited employment discrimination cases involving employers with more than five but less than 20 employees. This means that employer’s with under four employee’s do not fall under this Act. Private rights of action are when a law that creates rights also allows for private parties to bring a lawsuit, even though no such remedy is explicitly provided for in the law.
If you believe your case falls under the Virginia Human Rights Act, be sure to speak with an attorney to review the specific details of your case and for information on the next steps to take.
Defining exactly what discrimination is under the law can be difficult because even though something seems unfair and unjust, it may not technically be illegal. It’s also important to establish if your case falls under the Virginia Human Rights Act, or if it falls under another statute. According to the Virginia Human Rights Council, discrimination is conduct which violates any Virginia or Federal Statute or regulation governing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, disability.
In terms of employment, this means that unlawful discrimination occurs when an employee is not hired or promoted, makes a marital change in the terms and conditions of the employee’s employment, and the decision is based on a characteristic that is protected under the Virginia Human Rights Act. Some of these characteristics are clearly defined, while others are not. For example, age discrimination only applies when the person is over 40 years of age, whereas sex discrimination is a much broader category altogether.
The Virginia Human Rights Act protects people in employment, real estate transactions, and educational institutions. Determining whether or not your case falls under the Virginia Human Rights Act can be extremely difficult to figure out on your own. Speak to an experienced attorney to determine if your case falls under the Act so you can get an expert legal opinion and solution.
The Origin of the Act
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was called for by President John F. Kennedy in response to the black riots in the spring of 1963, as well as many other riots and protests that called for equality for minorities. It prohibits unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations. Initially, its power to enforce the new legislation was weak, but over time it was strengthened and expanded.
Following the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Virginia created the Virginia Human Rights Act to replicate and expand on the protections that were available on the federal level. This allowed for discrimination cases to be dealt with in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Virginia Human Rights Act Today
The Virginia Human Rights Act has gone through some changes since it was implemented in 1964. Segregation by race in school isn’t usually a problem anymore, but discrimination based on race in schools certainly is. Credibility and respect for medical conditions and disabilities have also advanced in more recent years to include a lot more circumstances.
Most recently the Act was challenged on its definition of “sex”. While the Virginia Human Rights Act forbids discrimination based on sex, it does not explicitly define what sex is which leaves open room for interpretation. In 2016, the term was challenged to include sexual orientation and gender identity. In the case of G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, the Court ruled that discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was in violation of the Virginia Human Rights Act. Since then, these now fall under the protection of the Act.
Filing a Claim
A discrimination claim can be filed with either the Virginia Council on Human Rights (VCHR) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The VCHR is a state administrative agency, while the EEOC is a federal administrative agency. Both agencies work in conjunction with each other to process claims, which means it is unnecessary to file a claim with both. The number of people your workplace employs has can have an impact on which agency you choose to file with. To make sure everything is done right, seek out the aid of an attorney to help you navigate this complicated territory.
Examples That Fall Under the Virginia Human Rights Act
To further expand on the case of G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, G.G. was a student who attended a Gloucester County School and faced transgender discrimination. This discrimination occurred in form of limiting which bathrooms G.G. could use, which alienated him into only being allowed to use the single stall bathroom in the nurse’s office. However, this was not the end of it, as other restrictions were continued to be placed on him. When this case was taken to court, it was found that the bathroom policies the school implemented were discrimination based on gender identity. The ruling of this case set the precedent that sexual orientation and gender identity is included under the “sex” characteristic outlined in the Virginia Human Rights Act.
Less specific examples can include; not receiving a promotion due to pregnancy, not being able to purchase property due to sexual orientation, not being able to reach a certain level or work in school due to a disability, not getting a job due to being over 40 years of age, being excluded from certain groups in school due to race, or not receiving a job due to religious beliefs, to name a few.
To fall under the Virginia Human Rights Act, the unlawful discrimination must be a result of one of these characteristics and not the result of performance, behavior, etc. To determine if your case specifically falls under this act, speak to a Virginia defense attorney for all the information you need to find justice.