Employment Law Updates

Until now, in Virginia only government employees had a right to access information in their personnel records. A new Virginia law will now require employers in the private sector to provide current or former employees with copies of certain employment-related documents upon request.

As a general rule, employers may not require employees or job applicants to take a polygraph (lie detector) test. The federal Polygraph Protection Act severely restricts the use of polygraph tests with employees or applicants. The Act prohibits most employers from requiring, suggesting, requesting or causing an employee or applicant to submit to a polygraph test, and further bars employers from requesting, using, referring to or inquiring about the results of any prior such test. In addition, the Act prohibits employers from terminating, disciplining or discriminating against an employee or applicant for refusing to take a polygraph test or for related actions.

Virginia employees often assume they are entitled by law to rest periods and meal breaks. Such a belief is a misconception. Although most employers voluntarily provide their full-time employees meal breaks and rest periods, neither Virginia nor federal law requires them. One exception is Virginia’s child labor law, which prohibits an employer from requiring or permitting a child under 16 years of age to work for more than five hours continuously without a lunch period of at least 30 minutes.

Employers are often confused about whether they may count a holiday against an employee's 12 week Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitlement. The U.S. Department of Labor has issued guidance on this subject. As explained in the DOL's FMLA Fact Sheet #28I, when a holiday falls during a week in which an employee is taking the full week of FMLA leave, the entire week is counted as FMLA leave. However, when a holiday falls during a week when an employee is taking less than the full week of FMLA leave, the holiday is not counted as FMLA leave, unless the employee was scheduled and expected to work on the holiday and used FMLA leave for that day.

There is no Virginia statute that requires employers to pay a departing employee for accrued vacation or other leave time. The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI), however, takes the position that the employer does have an obligation to pay for accrued leave if the employer has a policy or practice of doing so. For example, if the company’s employee handbook states that accrued vacation time will be paid upon termination of employment, the company will be bound by that policy.

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