On April 12, 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed into law several important amendments to the Virginia Wage Payment Act that, effective July 1, 2020, strengthens employee protections against wage theft by their employers. While the Virginia Wage Payment Act had, in name, prohibited an employer from failing to pay their employees, the statute had very limited ways for employees to enforce their rights to ensure that they received their owed wages. The statutes new amendments have changed that in some important ways:
- It allows employees to file lawsuits against their employers in court, either on behalf of themselves or collectively.
- If successful in the lawsuit, the employers would have to pay the owed wages and an amount up to three times the amount of owed wages, depending on whether the employer withheld wages knowingly.
- Successful employees would also be entitled to an award of attorney’s fees.
- General contractors in the construction industry, with some exceptions, are strictly liable if their subcontractors fail to pay their employee’s wages, meaning that if a subcontractor does not pay their employees then the general contractor must pay the wages or risk being sued.
- Expands the authority of the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry to investigate claims of wage theft and impose civil penalties.
If you have any questions about possible wage theft by your employer and would like to speak with an attorney, contact Jeremy Greenberg, Esq.