The Virginia Pay Transparency Law (“VPTL”), VA Code § 40.1-28.7:9, prohibits an employer from discharging or taking other retaliatory action against employees for discussing their pay or any other employees’ pay. The law is important because protecting employees’ right to discuss their compensation makes it easier for employees to negotiate for better pay and to discover possible violations of laws relating to employee compensation.
The VPTL provides that employers may not discharge or otherwise retaliate against employees because they inquired about or discussed any information about their compensation or that of other employees, or filed a complaint with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry about such retaliation:
A. No employer shall discharge from employment or take other retaliatory action against an employee because the employee:
(i) inquired about or discussed with, or disclosed to, another employee any information about either the employee’s own wages or other compensation or about any other employee’s wages or other compensation or
(ii) filed a complaint with the Department alleging a violation of this section.
The VPTL does provide some exceptions to the broad prohibitions against retaliation for employees’ discussing their compensation. The law provides that, except under limited circumstances, its protections do not apply to employees who have access to employee compensation information as part of their essential job functions and who disclose such compensation information to others who do not have access to the information:
[T]he provisions of this section shall not apply to employees who have access to the compensation information of other employees or applicants for employment as part of their essential job functions who disclose the pay of other employees or applicants to individuals who do not otherwise have access to compensation information, unless the disclosure is
(a) in response to a formal complaint or charge,
(b) in furtherance of an investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, including an investigation conducted by the employer, or
(c) consistent with a legal duty to furnish information.
DOL Role and Civil Penalties
The VPTL also provides for civil penalties for violations. The law authorizes the Department of Labor and Industry to impose a civil penalty of up to $100 for each violation against an employer that violates the law. The Labor Commissioner will notify any employer who is alleged to have violated the VPTL, and in response the employer has the right to request an informal conference regarding the violation with the Commissioner.
In determining the amount of any penalty, the Commissioner will consider the size of the business of the employer charged and the gravity of the violation. In addition, the VPTL authorizes the Commission or his authorized representative to petition a circuit court for injunctive relief or other relief necessary to enforce the provisions of the VPTL.
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