If you work for the Commonwealth of Virginia or one of its Counties, you have employment rights and ways to enforce those rights.
Virginia State Grievance Process
The Virginia Department of Human Resource Management has a grievance process that Virginia state employees can use to protect their job rights. The process allows for informal resolution of workplace disputes through mediation, which is an informal process involving a neutral third party who helps the employee and the employer find common ground and amicably resolve their disagreements. If mediation is not successful, an employee can file a grievance.
The Virginia HRM grievance process has several steps. In Step 1, the employee can work with their agency’s Human Resources Office or with the State’s Office of Equal Employment and Dispute Resolution to bring his or her concerns to the attention of a management official with authority to resolve the grievance. If Step 1 is unsuccessful, the employee can elevate his or her grievance and can have a hearing before a Hearing Official. A Hearing Official’s final decision can be appealed to a Virginia trail court and, ultimately, to the Virginia Supreme Court. However, the court cannot usually consider new evidence – the court’s review of the Hearing Official’s decision will be limited to the evidence presented during the hearing.
The Virginia State grievance process will consider employee disputes concerning “adverse employment actions” which are because of any of the following:
- Unfair application of personnel policies, procedures, rules, and regulations;
- Discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, political affiliation, age, disability, national origin, or sex;
- Arbitrary or capricious performance evaluation;
- Retaliation for participating in the grievance process; reporting violations of law, refusing to violate the law, seeking to change the law, reporting fraud, abuse, or gross mismanagement, or exercising legal rights; or
- Informal discipline – for example, terminations, transfers, assignments, demotions, and suspensions
Although this is a broad set of covered actions, many actions are also explicitly excluded from the Virginia grievance process:
- Wages, salaries, position classifications, or general benefits;
- The content of the rules and policies that apply to Virginia employees;
- How the State executes work activities;
- Hiring, promotion, transfer, assignment, and retention of employees;
- Termination, layoff, demotion, or suspension from duties because of lack of work, reduction in workforce, or job abolition;
- Work activity accepted by an employee as a condition of employment or which reasonably may be expected to be a part of the content of the job;
- Relief of employees from duties in emergencies; or
- Informal supervisory actions such as interim evaluations, counselings, and oral reprimands.
In 2004, the Virginia General Assembly passed revisions to the grievance legislation authorizing the recovery of reasonable attorneys' fees by an employee who is represented by an attorney at a grievance hearing and substantially prevails.
Under the Grievance Procedure Manual, the deadline for initiating the process is only thirty (30) days. As the grievance process progresses the employee continues to be responsible for meeting swift deadlines. To help you understand your rights and obligations, download a copy of the Grievance Procedure Manual (and Rules for Conducting Grievance Hearings) from the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management’s website or request a copy from your agency’s HR office.
If you are looking for representation through the grievance process or just for guidance on how to represent yourself, contact us for an initial consultation.
Virginia County Grievance Process
If you are an employee of a county in Virginia, your county probably has a grievance procedure that you can use to challenge adverse employee actions. With few exceptions, each county has its own procedure which you can probably find through your county’s Human Resources office or on-line. Your county’s grievance procedure should tell you important information you need to know, such as whether you are entitled to use the grievance process and your and your agency’s deadlines. The procedures will also tell you if you are entitled to have an attorney represent you in your grievance.
Call us if you want to talk about your grievance rights and how to protect them.
Virginia State Employee Whistleblowing Rights
The Virginia State grievance procedure offers protections for state employees who are subjected to adverse personnel actions because of their whistleblowing activities. The procedure says that a personnel decision, such as termination or suspension without pay, cannot be based on “acts of retaliation for participating in the grievance process, complying with any law or reporting a violation of such law to a governmental authority, seeking to change any law before Congress or the General Assembly, reporting an incidence of fraud, abuse, or gross mismanagement, or exercising any right otherwise protected by law.” Virginia Code § 2.2-3003. The employee has to file a grievance under the Virginia State grievance process within 30 days.