There is no single law or statute that provides a catch-all cause of action for "wrongful termination." Rather, the term refers to a broad group of laws that protect employees from termination in very specific situations.
By default, Virginia is an “at will” state, which means that employers are not required to provide a specific reason or justification for every termination. However, certain government, union or contract employees may be covered by grievance or contract rights that effectively require an employer to provide some basis for termination.
Classified government employees at local, state and federal levels often have grievance rights that are specific to their government employer. In most cases, employees can grieve termination decisions before a hearing officer or panel, compelling the employer to substantiate the factual and policy basis for the termination.
Similarly, unions negotiate for a collective bargaining agreement or "CBA" on behalf of their represented employees. The CBA is a contract between the union and the employer. The CBA typically includes provisions that require an employer to show cause for termination. However, an employee does not have the right to file their own lawsuit for breach of contract under this agreement. Alternatively, the employee typically must rely upon the union to support and advance a grievance through arbitration proceedings.>
Finally, a small number of employees may have an individual contract for a specific term or period(i.e. 1-2 years). Employers are hesitant to enter into term employment agreements but occasionally use them to secure the extended services of professionals such as doctors, executive and teachers. These contracts are specific to the individual and might include a provision that requires cause for termination
If you do not fall into one of the above employment categories, it remains the employees burden to prove that the employer’s termination decision is not only unfair, but also in violation of specific state or federal laws. law. Generally, protections from unlawful termination fall into the categories of discrimination, retaliation and whistleblower claims.