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Discrimination Lawsuit Puts Virginia Human Rights Law To The Test

The ACLU of Virginia is invoking a rarely-used Virginia anti-discrimination law in it’s latest lawsuit against a Richmond medical practice. The complaint alleges two black women were fired from a small business because of their race.

The Virginia Human Rights Act allows employees working for an employer who has more than five and fewer than 15 employees to sue their employer if they believe they were fired on the basis of race, sex or some other protected class.  Federal anti-discrimination protections typically don’t kick in unless employers have at least 15 employees.

 “We want to make sure that all employers know that employment discrimination is illegal and even small employers cannot fire employees on the basis of who they are,” said Nicole Torterella, an attorney with the ACLU of Virginia.

Tortoriello said this may be the first time the Virginia Human Rights Act has been tested.

The suit claims Titilayo Shiyanbade and Tyesha Brooks were fired from the Executive Health Group of Richmond after months of being subjected to “racially-charged” comments by practice owner, Dr. J. Rand Baggesen and his wife who is also an employee. The women were allegedly fired on the same day and replaced the following day with white employees- the employer citing “culture changes” for the termination.

Baggesen did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the complaint.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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