How do I find a job?

Finding a job you like, or any job for that matter, can be difficult. Research job postings online like on LinkedIn or Indeed.com, read the classified ads in your local newspaper, attend job fairs, watch for “help wanted” signs, and tell friends and neighbors that you are looking for a job. The Virginia Employment Commission (www.vec.virginia.gov) has resources to help you find a job, or you can use the resources of a private employment agency (although there may be a cost to you).

How can I improve my chances of getting a job?

An employer’s first impression of you is extremely important. Dress neatly and appropriately. Reconsider wearing non-traditional jewelry (such as jewelry associated with body-piercings) and wearing clothing that reveals tattoos, etc. to a job interview or when you file a job application. Arrive for your job interview on time. Be thoughtful and truthful when preparing the job application. Make sure you know what the job entails, and let the employer know what skills and talents you have that are well suited for the job.

What information must I provide to an employer if hired?

You must provide various types of information about your background, including a copy of your driver’s license and other forms of photo identification, plus your Social Security Number.

If I have a juvenile criminal/delinquency record, how do I answer a question asking if I have prior criminal convictions?

You do not have to divulge information about the juvenile criminal or delinquency record, as such offenses do not constitute “crimes” under Virginia law. Virginia law prohibits private employers from requiring job applicants to disclose expunged arrests and juvenile record information. If, as a juvenile, you were charged with having committed a delinquent offense (that is, it would be a crime if committed by an adult), you have a “juvenile record.” If the delinquent offense was dismissed or if it is pending to be dismissed, so long as “subject to” conditions imposed by the judge are satisfied by you, you have not been convicted either of a delinquent offense or a crime. Even if you were found guilty/not innocent of a delinquent offense, under Virginia law you have not been convicted of a “crime.”

What if the employer asks if I’ve ever been charged with a crime and, if so, explain?

This is a much broader question, but again, employers cannot require disclosure of expunged arrests or juvenile records. Also, as discussed above, if the charge is one that occurred when you were a juvenile, technically it is not considered a “crime” under Virginia law, but instead is viewed as a delinquent act. Again, you do not need to divulge information about your juvenile record in response to a question like this.

When I apply for a job can my potential employer review my social media listings?

Yes. Today, many employers when considering hiring prospective employees scan the various social media websites to determine if the applicant has a presence on those websites and, if so, what the page says about the applicant. You therefore should add privacy settings to your social media pages and clean up your social media pages to remove any images or content that you believe might give an employer concern about you (and keep it clean, if hired) so that your employer will get the correct impression of you as an employee.

However, as of July 1, 2015, Virginia Code section 40.1-28.7:5 prohibits employers from requiring employees to provide social media passwords or requiring employees to include supervisors/employers on social contacts or friends list with access to your social media account. https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title40.1/chapter3/section40.1-28.7:5/ This does not, however, prevent your employer from viewing publicly available information or prevent your supervisors to “friend” you, so long as accepting the “friend request” is not a requirement of employment.

Must an employer give employees a written contract?

No. Most employment contracts in Virginia are “at-will,” meaning both the employer and the employee are free to end the employment relationship at-will and whenever they choose, so long as they give each other reasonable notice. 

You need to ask your prospective employer whether you are entitled to sick days, personal days, and vacation days. There is no law that guarantees you such paid days off. If you work for an employer with fifty or more employees, and you have worked long enough to qualify, the Family and Medical Leave Act entitles you to up to twelve work weeks of unpaid leave during any twelve-month period for the birth or adoption of a child; to care for your spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition; or for a serious health condition that makes you unable to perform the functions of your position.

What if my employer fails to pay me?

You can file a wage claim with the U.S. Department of Labor or the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, Division of Labor and Employment Law.

For what reasons may I be fired?

If no employment contract exists, an employee may be fired for any reason except one prohibited by law such as age, race, color, sex, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, or disability. If an employment contract exists, the language of the contract will dictate the terms for dismissal. Where no specified time is fixed determining the duration of the employment, it is presumed to be an “employment at will” that can be terminated at any time by either party.

What are unemployment benefits?

Unemployment benefits are government funds provided to an employee who is laid off or discharged through no fault of his or her own for a limited period following termination from employment. You can apply for unemployment benefits on the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at vec.virginia.gov.

What is workers’ compensation?

Workers’ compensation provides for the payment of certain expenses incurred by an employee for injuries or illness arising out of, or in the course of, employment. You should report all such injuries or illnesses to your employer as soon as they occur, and you should review your situation with both the workers’ compensation department and a lawyer to be fully advised of your legal rights. You can file a claim for workers’ compensation on the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission's website at workcomp.virginia.gov.

Whom should I contact if I think I have been discriminated against?

Contact the Office of the Attorney General, Division of Human Rights, the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), your local county Human Rights Commission, or private organizations that deal with discrimination. You should make contact as soon as possible because there may be a specific time frame in which you must act to file a claim. The law not only protects you from discrimination in hiring and firing, but it also protects you from discrimination regarding wages, hours, and promotions.

So You’re 18 is presented by the Virginia State Bar Conference of Local and Specialty Bar Associations.
For print copies of So You're 18 contact (804) 775-0521 or [email protected].