Code of Virginia

Code of Virginia
Title 2.2. Administration of Government
10/1/2020

Chapter 39. Virginia Human Rights Act.

§ 2.2-3900. Short title; declaration of policy.

A. This chapter shall be known and cited as the Virginia Human Rights Act.

B. It is the policy of the Commonwealth to:

1. Safeguard all individuals within the Commonwealth from unlawful discrimination because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a veteran, or disability in places of public accommodation, including educational institutions and in real estate transactions;

2. Safeguard all individuals within the Commonwealth from unlawful discrimination in employment because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or status as a veteran;

3. Preserve the public safety, health, and general welfare;

4. Further the interests, rights, and privileges of individuals within the Commonwealth; and

5. Protect citizens of the Commonwealth against unfounded charges of unlawful discrimination.

1987, c. 581, §§ 2.1-714, 2.1-715; 1997, c. 404; 2001, c. 844; 2020, cc. 1137, 1140.

§ 2.2-3901. Definitions.

A. The terms "because of sex or gender" or "on the basis of sex or gender" or terms of similar import when used in reference to discrimination in the Code and acts of the General Assembly include because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, including lactation. Women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all purposes as persons not so affected but similar in their abilities or disabilities.

B. The term "gender identity," when used in reference to discrimination in the Code and acts of the General Assembly, means the gender-related identity, appearance, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual's designated sex at birth.

C. The term "sexual orientation," when used in reference to discrimination in the Code and acts of the General Assembly, means a person's actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality.

D. The terms "because of race" or "on the basis of race" or terms of similar import when used in reference to discrimination in the Code and acts of the General Assembly include because of or on the basis of traits historically associated with race, including hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.

E. For purposes of this chapter, "lactation" means a condition that may result in the feeding of a child directly from the breast or the expressing of milk from the breast.

1987, c. 581, § 2.1-716; 1991, c. 457; 1997, c. 404; 2001, c. 844; 2005, c. 839; 2020, cc. 107, 152, 1137, 1138, 1139, 1140.

§ 2.2-3902. Construction of chapter; other programs to aid persons with disabilities, minors, and the elderly.

The provisions of this chapter shall be construed liberally for the accomplishment of its policies.

Conduct that violates any Virginia or federal statute or regulation governing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age, status as a veteran, or national origin is an unlawful discriminatory practice under this chapter.

Nothing in this chapter shall prohibit or alter any program, service, facility, school, or privilege that is afforded, oriented, or restricted to a person because of disability or age from continuing to habilitate, rehabilitate, or accommodate that person.

In addition, nothing in this chapter shall be construed to affect any governmental program, law or activity differentiating between persons on the basis of age over the age of 18 years (i) where the differentiation is reasonably necessary to normal operation or the activity is based upon reasonable factors other than age or (ii) where the program, law or activity constitutes a legitimate exercise of powers of the Commonwealth for the general health, safety and welfare of the population at large.

Complaints filed with the Division of Human Rights of the Department of Law (the Division) in accordance with § 2.2-520 alleging unlawful discriminatory practice under a Virginia statute that is enforced by a Virginia agency shall be referred to that agency. The Division may investigate complaints alleging an unlawful discriminatory practice under a federal statute or regulation and attempt to resolve it through conciliation. Unsolved complaints shall thereafter be referred to the federal agency with jurisdiction over the complaint. Upon such referral, the Division shall have no further jurisdiction over the complaint. The Division shall have no jurisdiction over any complaint filed under a local ordinance adopted pursuant to § 15.2-965.

1987, c. 581, § 2.1-717; 1991, c. 457; 1997, c. 404; 2000, c. 933; 2001, c. 844; 2012, cc. 803, 835; 2020, cc. 1137, 1140.

§ 2.2-3903. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 2020, c. 1140, cl. 2.

§ 2.2-3904. Nondiscrimination in places of public accommodation; definitions.

A. As used in this section, unless the context requires a different meaning:

"Age" means being an individual who is at least 18 years of age.

"Place of public accommodation" means all places or businesses offering or holding out to the general public goods, services, privileges, facilities, advantages, or accommodations.

B. It is an unlawful discriminatory practice for any person, including the owner, lessee, proprietor, manager, superintendent, agent, or employee of any place of public accommodation, to refuse, withhold from, or deny any individual, or to attempt to refuse, withhold from, or deny any individual, directly or indirectly, any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, services, or privileges made available in any place of public accommodation, or to segregate or discriminate against any such person in the use thereof, or to publish, circulate, issue, display, post, or mail, either directly or indirectly, any communication, notice, or advertisement to the effect that any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services of any such place shall be refused, withheld from, or denied to any individual on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, disability, or status as a veteran.

C. The provisions of this section shall not apply to a private club, a place of accommodation owned by or operated on behalf of a religious corporation, association, or society that is not in fact open to the public, or any other establishment that is not in fact open to the public.

D. The provisions of this section shall not prohibit (i) discrimination against individuals who are less than 18 years of age or (ii) the provision of special benefits, incentives, discounts, or promotions by public or private programs to assist persons who are 50 years of age or older.

E. The provisions of this section shall not supersede or interfere with any state law or local ordinance that prohibits a person under the age of 21 from entering a place of public accommodation.

2020, c. 1140.

§ 2.2-3905. Nondiscrimination in employment; definitions; exceptions.

A. As used in this section:

"Age" means being an individual who is at least 40 years of age.

"Employee" means an individual employed by an employer.

"Employer" means a person employing 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and any agent of such a person. However, (i) for purposes of unlawful discharge under subdivision B 1 on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, status as a veteran, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, or childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, "employer" means any employer employing more than five persons and (ii) for purposes of unlawful discharge under subdivision B 1 on the basis of age, "employer" means any employer employing more than five but fewer than 20 persons.

"Employment agency" means any person, or an agent of such person, regularly undertaking with or without compensation to procure employees for an employer or to procure for employees opportunities to work for an employer.

"Joint apprenticeship committee" means the same as that term is defined in § 40.1-120.

"Labor organization" means an organization engaged in an industry, or an agent of such organization, that exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers on behalf of employees concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours, or other terms or conditions of employment. "Labor organization" includes employee representation committees, groups, or associations in which employees participate.

"Lactation" means a condition that may result in the feeding of a child directly from the breast or the expressing of milk from the breast.

B. It is an unlawful employment practice for:

1. An employer to:

a. Fail or refuse to hire, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to such individual's compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age, status as a veteran, or national origin; or

b. Limit, segregate, or classify employees or applicants for employment in any way that would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect an individual's status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions including lactation, age, status as a veteran, or national origin.

2. An employment agency to:

a. Fail or refuse to refer for employment, or otherwise discriminate against, any individual because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, status as a veteran, or national origin; or

b. Classify or refer for employment any individual on the basis of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, status as a veteran, or national origin.

3. A labor organization to:

a. Exclude or expel from its membership, or otherwise discriminate against, any individual because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, status as a veteran, or national origin;

b. Limit, segregate, or classify its membership or applicants for membership, or classify or fail to or refuse to refer for employment any individual, in any way that would deprive or tend to deprive such individual of employment opportunities, or would limit such employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect an individual's status as an employee or as an applicant for employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, status as a veteran, or national origin; or

c. Cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against an individual in violation of subdivisions a or b.

4. An employer, labor organization, or joint apprenticeship committee to discriminate against any individual in any program to provide apprenticeship or other training program on the basis of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, status as a veteran, or national origin.

5. An employer, in connection with the selection or referral of applicants or candidates for employment or promotion, to adjust the scores of, use different cutoff scores for, or otherwise alter the results of employment-related tests on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, status as a veteran, or national origin.

6. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, an employer to use race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, status as a veteran, or national origin as a motivating factor for any employment practice, even though other factors also motivate the practice.

7. (i) An employer to discriminate against any employees or applicants for employment, (ii) an employment agency or a joint apprenticeship committee controlling an apprenticeship or other training program to discriminate against any individual, or (iii) a labor organization to discriminate against any member thereof or applicant for membership because such individual has opposed any practice made an unlawful employment practice by this chapter or because such individual has made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this chapter.

8. An employer, labor organization, employment agency, or joint apprenticeship committee controlling an apprenticeship or other training program to print or publish, or cause to be printed or published, any notice or advertisement relating to (i) employment by such an employer, (ii) membership in or any classification or referral for employment by such a labor organization, (iii) any classification or referral for employment by such an employment agency, or (iv) admission to, or employment in, any program established to provide apprenticeship or other training by such a joint apprenticeship committee that indicates any preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, status as a veteran, or national origin, except that such a notice or advertisement may indicate a preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination based on religion, sex, age, or national origin when religion, sex, age, or national origin is a bona fide occupational qualification for employment.

C. Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, it is not an unlawful employment practice:

1. For (i) an employer to hire and employ employees; (ii) an employment agency to classify, or refer for employment, any individual; (iii) a labor organization to classify its membership or to classify or refer for employment any individual; or (iv) an employer, labor organization, or joint apprenticeship committee to admit or employ any individual in any apprenticeship or other training program on the basis of such individual's religion, sex, or age in those certain instances where religion, sex, or age is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular employer, employment agency, labor organization, or joint apprenticeship committee;

2. For an elementary or secondary school or institution of higher education to hire and employ employees of a particular religion if such elementary or secondary school or institution of higher education is, in whole or in substantial part, owned, supported, controlled, or managed by a particular religion or by a particular religious corporation, association, or society or if the curriculum of such elementary or secondary school or institution of higher education is directed toward the propagation of a particular religion;

3. For an employer to apply different standards of compensation, or different terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, pursuant to a bona fide seniority or merit system, or a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or to employees who work in different locations, provided that such differences are not the result of an intention to discriminate because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, status as a veteran, or national origin;

4. For an employer to give and to act upon the results of any professionally developed ability test, provided that such test, its administration, or an action upon the results is not designed, intended, or used to discriminate because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, status as a veteran, or national origin;

5. For an employer to provide reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, and lactation, when such accommodations are requested by the employee; or

6. For an employer to condition employment or premises access based upon citizenship where the employer is subject to any requirement imposed in the interest of the national security of the United States under any security program in effect pursuant to or administered under any statute or regulation of the federal government or any executive order of the President of the United States.

D. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require any employer, employment agency, labor organization, or joint apprenticeship committee to grant preferential treatment to any individual or to any group because of such individual's or group's race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, status as a veteran, or national origin on account of an imbalance that may exist with respect to the total number or percentage of persons of any race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, status as a veteran, or national origin employed by any employer, referred or classified for employment by any employment agency or labor organization, admitted to membership or classified by any labor organization, or admitted to or employed in any apprenticeship or other training program, in comparison with the total number or percentage of persons of such race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, status as a veteran, or national origin in any community.

E. The provisions of this section shall not apply to the employment of individuals of a particular religion by a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society to perform work associated with its activities.

2020, c. 1140.

§ 2.2-3906. Civil action by Attorney General.

A. Whenever the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that any person or group of persons is engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of any of the rights granted by this chapter, or that any person or group of persons has been denied any of the rights granted by this chapter and such denial raises an issue of general public importance, the Attorney General may commence a civil action in the appropriate circuit court for appropriate relief.

B. In such civil action, the court may:

1. Award such preventive relief, including a permanent or temporary injunction, restraining order, or other order against the person responsible for a violation of this chapter, as is necessary to assure the full enjoyment of the rights granted by this chapter.

2. Assess a civil penalty against the respondent (i) in an amount not exceeding $50,000 for a first violation and (ii) in an amount not exceeding $100,000 for any subsequent violation. Such civil penalties are payable to the Literary Fund.

3. Award a prevailing plaintiff reasonable attorney fees and costs.

C. The court or jury may award such other relief to the aggrieved person as the court deems appropriate, including compensatory damages and punitive damages.

D. Upon timely application, any person may intervene in a civil action commenced by the Attorney General under subsection A that involves an alleged discriminatory practice pursuant to this chapter with respect to which such person is an aggrieved person. The court may grant such appropriate relief to any such intervening party as is authorized to be granted to a plaintiff in a civil action under § 2.2-3908.

2020, c. 1140.

§ 2.2-3907. Procedures for a charge of unlawful discrimination; notice; investigation; report; conciliation; notice of the right to file a civil action; temporary relief.

A. Any person claiming to be aggrieved by an unlawful discriminatory practice may file a complaint in writing under oath or affirmation with the Division of Human Rights of the Department of Law (the Division). The Division itself or the Attorney General may in a like manner file such a complaint. The complaint shall be in such detail as to substantially apprise any party properly concerned as to the time, place, and facts surrounding the alleged unlawful discrimination.

B. Upon perfection of a complaint filed pursuant to subsection A, the Division shall timely serve a charge on the respondent and provide all parties with a notice informing the parties of the complainant's rights, including the right to commence a civil action, and the dates within which the complainant may exercise such rights. In the notice, the Division shall notify the complainant that the charge of unlawful discrimination will be dismissed with prejudice and with no right to further proceed if a written complaint is not timely filed with the appropriate general district or circuit court.

C. The complainant and respondent may agree to voluntarily submit the charge to mediation without waiving any rights that are otherwise available to either party pursuant to this chapter and without incurring any obligation to accept the result of the mediation process. Nothing occurring in mediation shall be disclosed by the Division or admissible in evidence in any subsequent proceeding unless the complainant and the respondent agree in writing that such disclosure be made.

D. Once a charge has been issued, the Division shall conduct an investigation sufficient to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe the alleged discrimination occurred. Such charge shall be the subject of a report made by the Division. The report shall be a confidential document subject to review by the Attorney General, authorized Division employees, and the parties. The review shall state whether there is reasonable cause to believe the alleged unlawful discrimination has been committed.

E. If the report on a charge of discrimination concludes that there is no reasonable cause to believe the alleged unlawful discrimination has been committed, the charge shall be dismissed and the complainant shall be given notice of his right to commence a civil action.

F. If the report on a charge of discrimination concludes that there is reasonable cause to believe the alleged unlawful discrimination has been committed, the complainant and respondent shall be notified of such determination and the Division shall immediately endeavor to eliminate any alleged unlawful discriminatory practice by informal methods such as conference, conciliation, and persuasion. When the Division determines that further endeavor to settle a complaint by conference, conciliation, and persuasion is unworkable and should be bypassed, the Division shall issue a notice that the case has been closed and the complainant shall be given notice of his right to commence a civil action.

G. At any time after a notice of charge of discrimination is issued, the Division or complainant may petition the appropriate court for temporary relief, pending final determination of the proceedings under this section, including an order or judgment restraining the respondent from doing or causing any act that would render ineffectual an order that a court may enter with respect to the complainant. Whether it is brought by the Division or by the complainant, the petition shall contain a certification by the Division that the particular matter presents exceptional circumstances in which irreparable injury will result from unlawful discrimination in the absence of temporary relief.

H. Upon receipt of a written request from the complainant, the Division shall promptly issue a notice of the right to file a civil action to the complainant after (i) 180 days have passed from the date the complaint was filed or (ii) the Division determines that it will be unable to complete its investigation within 180 days from the date the complaint was filed.

2020, c. 1140.

§ 2.2-3908. Civil actions by private parties.

A. An aggrieved person who has been provided a notice of his right to file a civil action pursuant to § 2.2-3907 may commence a timely civil action in an appropriate general district or circuit court having jurisdiction over the person who allegedly unlawfully discriminated against such person in violation of this chapter.

B. If the court or jury finds that unlawful discrimination has occurred, the court or jury may award to the plaintiff, as the prevailing party, compensatory and punitive damages and the court may award reasonable attorney fees and costs and may grant as relief any permanent or temporary injunction, temporary restraining order, or other order, including an order enjoining the defendant from engaging in such practice, or order such affirmative action as may be appropriate.

C. Upon timely application, the Attorney General may intervene in such civil action if the Attorney General certifies that the case is of general public importance. Upon intervention, the Attorney General may obtain such relief as would be available to a private party under subsection B.

2020, c. 1140.

§ 2.2-3909. Causes of action for failure to provide reasonable accommodation for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

A. As used in this section:

"Employer" means any person, or agent of such person, employing five or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.

"Lactation" means lactation as defined in § 2.2-3905.

"Reasonable accommodation" includes more frequent or longer bathroom breaks, breaks to express breast milk, access to a private location other than a bathroom for the expression of breast milk, acquisition or modification of equipment or access to or modification of employee seating, a temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position, assistance with manual labor, job restructuring, a modified work schedule, light duty assignments, and leave to recover from childbirth.

"Related medical conditions" includes lactation.

B. No employer shall:

1. Refuse to make reasonable accommodation to the known limitations of a person related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

a. In determining whether an accommodation would constitute an undue hardship on the employer, the following shall be considered:

(1) Hardship on the conduct of the employer's business, considering the nature of the employer's operation, including composition and structure of the employer's workforce;

(2) The size of the facility where employment occurs; and

(3) The nature and cost of the accommodations needed.

b. The fact that the employer provides or would be required to provide a similar accommodation to other classes of employees shall create a rebuttable presumption that the accommodation does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.

2. Take adverse action against an employee who requests or uses a reasonable accommodation pursuant to this section. As used in this subdivision, "adverse action" includes failure to reinstate any such employee to her previous position or an equivalent position with equivalent pay, seniority, and other benefits when her need for a reasonable accommodation ceases.

3. Deny employment or promotion opportunities to an otherwise qualified applicant or employee because such employer will be required to make reasonable accommodation to the known limitations of such applicant or employee related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

4. Require an employee to take leave if another reasonable accommodation can be provided to the known limitations related to the pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of such employee.

C. Each employer shall engage in a timely, good faith interactive process with an employee who has requested an accommodation pursuant to this section to determine if the requested accommodation is reasonable and, if such accommodation is determined not to be reasonable, discuss alternative accommodations that may be provided.

D. An employer shall post in a conspicuous location and include in any employee handbook information concerning an employee's rights to reasonable accommodation for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Such information shall also be directly provided to (i) new employees upon commencement of their employment and (ii) any employee within 10 days of such employee's providing notice to the employer that she is pregnant.

E. An employee or applicant who has been denied any of the rights afforded under subsection B may bring an action in a general district or circuit court having jurisdiction over the employer that allegedly denied such rights. Any such action shall be brought within two years from the date of the unlawful denial of rights, or, if the employee or applicant has filed a complaint with the Division of Human Rights of the Department of Law or a local human rights or human relations agency or commission within two years of the unlawful denial of rights, such action shall be brought within 90 days from the date that the Division or a local human rights or human relations agency or commission has rendered a final disposition on the complaint.

If the court or jury finds that an unlawful denial of rights afforded under subsection B has occurred, the court or jury may award to the plaintiff, as the prevailing party, compensatory damages, back pay, and other equitable relief. The court may also award reasonable attorney fees and costs and may grant as relief any permanent or temporary injunction, temporary restraining order, or other order, including an order enjoining the defendant from engaging in such practice, or order such affirmative action as may be appropriate.

F. The provisions of this section regarding the provision of reasonable accommodation for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions shall not be construed to affect any other provision of law relating to discrimination on the basis of sex or pregnancy.

2020, cc. 1138, 1139, 2.2-3904.

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