The Virginia Values Act

The VVA, which went into effect on July 1, 2020, essentially revises and reinvigorates the formerly toothless Virginia Human Rights Act (previously only applying to employers with between 5 and 15 employees and providing precious few remedies within the previous private right of action ). The VVA creates a private cause of action against employers with 15 or more employees in most instances (in some situations, such as employees who were discriminatorily terminated from employment, 5 employees is sufficient) and, of particular note, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, public and private employment, public accommodations, and access to credit. VVA legislation also extends important protections to Virginians on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions (lactation included), age, marital status, disability, and status as a veteran. However, before a civil cause of action may be brought in a court of the Commonwealth, an aggrieved individual must file a complaint with the Division of Human Rights (“DHR”), participate in an administrative process, and receive a notice of right to commence a civil action. This tracks with the similar requirement under many federal laws (such as Title VII), which require a complainant to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), participate in the administrative investigative process, and receive a notice of right to sue prior to filing suit in a federal district court.