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State Law Claims (Contracts/Torts)

Given the fact that Virginia courts have strongly adhered to the at-will doctrine which results in most wrongful discharge claims being dismissed prior to trial, disgruntled employees are increasingly turning to claims of defamation and other tort claims in an effort to hold employers responsible. Since at least 2000, the law has been clear in Virginia that communications within a company about another employee (whether in an interoffice memo, performance evaluation or report of investigation) can give rise to a defamation action. Larimore v. Blaylock, 259 Va. 568, 528 S.E.2d 119 (2000). While there are defenses (i.e., the truth) and privileges that apply, recent multi-million dollar verdicts have been upheld by the Virginia Supreme Court on statements some thought were pure “opinion.” See Raytheon Tech. Servs. Co. v. Hyland, 641 S.E.2d 84 (2007); Gov’t Micro Res., Inc. v. Jackson, 624 S.E.2d 63 (2006). Simply couching statements in terms of an “opinion” will no longer preclude pursuit of a defamation cause of action.

Other claims frequently brought, but with much less success, are claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and violation of an individual’s right of privacy. The types of claims we have defended are:

  • Defamation arising out of references
  • Defamation arising out of evaluations
  • Defamation in comments made to employees, vendors and other third parties
  • Claims arising out of statements made in internal investigations
  • Claims of invasion of privacy
  • Claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress
  • Claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress
  • Claims of intentional interference with contract

Employment Contract Claims

Although the “at-will” doctrine applies in Virginia, it is not uncommon for companies to enter into employment contracts with their key executives, salespeople or others who bring unique talents and skills to the organization. In addition to having significant experience in litigating noncompete and nonsolicitation disputes, our attorneys have significant experience in both federal and state courts in the litigation and trial of employment contracts. Among the types of issues we have handled are:

  • Incentive compensation disputes
  • Termination for cause provisions
  • Stock option vesting evaluation issues
  • Commission payment issues
  • Anti-piracy provisions
  • Nonsolicitation provisions
  • Noncompete provisions
  • Oral agreements/statute of frauds issues
  • Severance pay disputes

In this area, our attorneys can find themselves on either side of a dispute representing the company or an existing or former executive who has a dispute.

Have questions? Contact us.