QUESTION: virginia labor laws

question / pregunta: 

i live in the district of columbia and i just got fired from my job in alexandria, va. the reasons given were "poor performance and too many missed days of work." my health has been causing me to miss quite a few days of work, and i had spoken with management about it, made up hours, and provided documentation of my various doctor visits. this last friday i was told by my new doctor that i must take a week off to recover and she provided a note. i emailed this to my boss and on tuesday she left a voicemail saying i was fired.
what course of action might i take in this situation? i believe this is wrongful termination which presents an undue hardship and would like to request a significant severence. at the very least i would like to report my employers to...anyone who might be able to help me. labor board?
i don't know anything about unemployment. do i file in dc? how?
someone told me that my employer might be responsible for providing insurance for the next 180 days after my termination, or have to provide COBRA?
thanks for any help you might offer.


First off, let me make clear that the most responsible thing a librarian can do when asked for advice on a legal matter is to encourage you to get qualified legal advice. Librarians are not lawyers (or doctors, etc.). You may want to consult with the Virginia Legal Aid Society. There is also a commercial referral site called Virginia Employment Lawyers which may be worth looking at, though bear in mind that such referral sites should be evaluated with their commercial intentions clearly in mind.

Given the above caveat, I can suggest some research resources for you. There is a Lexis-Nexis page on Virginia Labor Law posted by (bear in mind the above caveat if you go to other pages within that commercial referral site. The Holt Labor Library hosts a page of links for labor research. You can check out legal publisher Nolo’s Employee Rights page. Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute has a page on labor law. These general resources should get you started and help educate yourself, but I again stress that qualified legal counsel is important as you move forward with this.

As for unemployment compensation, you should contact the D.C. Dept. of Employment Services to find out how to proceed.

Answer posted by:
jim miller

To add to what jbeek has listed, you can also do some searching in the full text of laws, if you have the time and want to go to an attorney with a bit of prior self-education in the law. You can experiment with different searches of the Virginia State Code, to see what might seem to cover your situation. For example, the search: employee* and rights and employer* gets 37 hits; employee* and discharge and employer* gets 22; employee* and discriminat* and health gets 14, etc. But knowing the best words to use for sure depends upon knowledge of the law, and these examples do not imply such knowledge – only to give a few examples of how you might start looking for information. Figuring out how to separate public from private employer laws is just one of countless difficulties an attorney might be able to help you with.

The Virginia code highlights the words you search, to help you see how your searches work. You can also search the US Code, but it does not have that highlight feature; you have to use CTRL-F (find on page) to see where your words appear in the sometimes VERY long text of the laws. The search: employee* and firing and health gets 101 hits; employee* and firing and discriminat* gets 31, employee* and firing and 'labor relations' gets 8, employee* and firing and disabilities gets 45, etc.