The Virginia Human Rights Act prohibits employment practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, pregnancy and related medical conditions, age, or disability but does not specifically address the issue of preemployment inquiries (VA Code Sec. 2.2-3900et seq.). As a general rule, however, asking questions about any of these characteristics, either on an application form or in a job interview, may be interpreted as evidence of an employer's intent to discriminate if an applicant later claims unlawful discrimination. The Act covers employers with more than 5 but fewer than 15 employees.
The Virginians with Disabilities Act (VDA) also prohibits employment practices that discriminate against qualified individuals with a disability (VA Code Sec. 51.5-41). The VDA covers all employers, regardless of size.
Bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) exception. An employer may make an employment inquiry about a protected characteristic only if it is reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the employer's business, and there is no less intrusive way to ensure that the applicant will be able to perform the job in question. To be a BFOQ, a characteristic must be absolutely essential to the applicant's ability to perform the job. Employers should use caution in relying on the BFOQ rationale and should always consult with legal counsel before making any inquiries based on a BFOQ.