By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com
The following is an article on leave laws and rules that cover Virginia employees. Leave issues generally tend to come up either during the course of an employee’s employment or immediately following the end of an individual’s employment. Leave laws and regulations also vary by the type of employer and jurisdiction of the employer. For instance, federal, state, county and private sector employers have different laws and rules governing leave.
Virginia has not enacted laws regarding many areas of employee leave as of yet, but that may be changing as other states enact improvements. Virginia is a state where most forms of employee leave are not mandatory on employers, but can become so if policies and practices are adopted by employers. I also suspect that there will be additional changes in the future as Northern Virginia grows larger and adds more employers. Some jurisdictions, like the District of Columbia have moved towards expanded paid leave. Fortunately, for most Virginia employees, many forms of leave, while not mandatory are typically provided by employers in order for them to stay competitive in keeping key employees.
I will go through the major types of employee leave in Virginia below:
Vacation Leave / Annual Leave
Except for those situations involving medical issues, the most important form of leave involves annual or vacation leave. In Virginia, private sector employers are not required by law to provide employees with vacation / annual leave, either in a paid or unpaid status. This surprises many employees. Additionally, the rules regarding this type of leave are different for federal, state and county employees in Virginia.
For example, federal employees accrue a certain amount of annual or vacation leave each pay period and can then use this leave for vacation time or taking time off. When a federal employee leaves the federal government, they are then paid out for the remaining balance of annual leave that they have not used.
While providing or paying out accrued vacation or annual leave has not been mandated for private sector employers in this state, if it is pursuant to a consistent employer practice or policy, the employer in Virginia may be required to pay such leave out to departing employees.
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, there is also no state requirement that employers provide employees with sick leave benefits. Virginia is different in this respect when compared to many other states. For example, 7 states (Arizona, Connecticut, California, Oregon, Massachusetts, Arizona and Washington) and the District of Columbia have enacted state laws to require some form of paid sick leave. It is likely that such laws will eventually make it to Virginia.
That said, if an employer decides to provide sick leave to employees in Virginia, it must follow their established policy. There are some other important considerations on sick leave. First, federal, state and county employees are generally given sick leave in increments. Additionally, pursuant to federal law, private sector employees of larger Virginia companies (more than 50 employees) are entitled to sick leave when given under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under the FMLA, private sector employees in Virginia may take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for a serious health condition, bonding with a new child, or qualifying exigencies.
This type of FMLA leave renews every 12 months as long as the employee continues to meet the eligibility requirements set out above. Employees may also take up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period to care for a family member who was injured on active military duty.
Administrative leave is a form of temporary leave from duties, with pay and employee benefits left intact. There is no entitlement to administrative leave for employees in Virginia, but it can and is often granted. Typically, this type of leave is granted for reasons related to misconduct, internal investigations, equal employment opportunity investigations or other miscellaneous issues that arise. Federal, state and county employees have their own unique policies for administrative leave, which vary. In large part, administrative leave is used to pay an employee when they are being kept out of the workplace during the course of a disciplinary investigation.
Holiday Leave in Virginia
Additionally, the Commonwealth of Virginia does not require private employers to provide employees with either paid or unpaid holiday leave. A Virginia employer does not have to pay an employee premium or other enhanced pays for working on a holiday. Again, different standards apply for federal, county and state employees, depending on position (e.g. firefighter), who may receive holiday pay for their work and/or different types of premium pay. The good news is that most private sector employers voluntarily observe a paid holiday schedule.
Leave Without Pay in Virginia
Leave without pay is another type of leave available in Virginia, but not mandated by state law. LWOP, as it is called, takes the form of reduced hours or in taking an unpaid day off. LWOP could be used for intermittent FMLA, personal, sick or vacation time off. The employee receiving LWOP will not be compensated for this unpaid form of leave.
Military Leave in Virginia
Military leave is available to most Virginia employees. Leave to participate in military service is not covered under Virginia law, but under federal law. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). USERRA requires that employers permit the return of an employee who is a uniformed service member to their position after they return from military service or training.
Voter Leave in Virginia
At present, an employer in Virginia is not required to give leave for an employee to vote. However, Virginia does require an employer to accommodate an employee who has been appointed as an election official in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Some federal and other public employees have policies of permitting leave for voting where necessary.
Jury Duty Leave In Virginia
An employer is not required to provide leave for jury duty in Virginia, but cannot discharge or retaliate against the employee if they have given reasonable notice to their employer of a jury obligation. Additionally, an employer may not charge a private sector employee vacation or annual leave for jury duty service. An employer that violates these provisions is guilty of a misdemeanor (VA Code. §18.2-465.1).
VA Code 18.2-464.1 provides, in part: “Any person who is summoned to serve on jury duty or any person, except a defendant in a criminal case, who is summoned or subpoenaed to appear in any court of law or equity when a case is to be heard or who, having appeared, is required in writing by the court to appear at any future hearing, shall neither be discharged from employment, nor have any adverse personnel action taken against him, nor shall he be required to use sick leave or vacation time, as a result of his absence from employment due to such jury duty or court appearance, upon giving reasonable notice to his employer of such court appearance or summons.”
If you need assistance with an employment issue or resolving a matter with an employer regarding leave issues, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or at www.berrylegal.com to schedule a consultation. Please also like and visit us on Facebook.