Arlington Chamber of Commerce Blog


Retail in Need of Therapy

by Admin 24. August 2016 04:58

 By Larry Trotter II, Soteria  

Since the rise of the credit card, consumers have found ease in the simplicity of swiping, putting cash next to extinct in comparison. However, modern day shopping has become such normality that consumers often forget the risk in transferring such sensitive information so frequently. Attackers are especially known to attack during prime time seasons for shopping, when consumers triple their normal expenses. In fairness, retail breaches don’t just directly affect the pockets of consumers, but also jeopardize the security of merchants nationwide. But can merchants play a big enough role in prevention to assume responsibility for a breach? Who else plays a significant role to ensure that the risks of breaches are minimal by implementing secure technologies? Perhaps the industry mandating regulations for retailers are not living up to their side of the bargain.

Physical vs. Cyber Security Investments

Luxury designers, such as Hermes, a French manufacturer in high-end clothing, are beefing up their physical security systems instead of investing in cybersecurity. These physical security systems have software that integrates with their existing infrastructure, making ‘monitoring’ more efficient. But has the software that runs on these physical security systems been tested for vulnerabilities before implementation?

Having physical security systems in place has its advantages; however, thieves are no longer breaking in the front door. High-end retailers like these should be spending revenue on their cybersecurity infrastructure rather than ‘high-end’ security systems. According to a report made by Hewlett Packard and the Ponemon Institute of Cyber Crime, surveys from 250 organizations worldwide comprised of 2,000 executive members, determined that cyber-attacks affected all industries and markets. It is also significant that cyber-attacks cost the average American firm $15.4 million per year, which doubles the global average of $7.7 million. 

Point-of-sales (POS) systems are the primary targets of attackers in the retail industry, and once compromised, they are known to leak sensitive information, such as customer credit card information and personal data. Are these POS devices assessed periodically, along with the rest of their networks?

Where’s the Breach?

Recently, popular fast food chain Wendy’s experienced security threats in many of its franchise locations, causing major concern for the leak in sensitive consumer data. Details provided evidence that malware was found on their POS systems, which occurred due to a third-party vendor credential compromise, which was detected when banking institutions and credit unions identified a spike in customer debt months prior to the public disclosure. Hackers were able to side-step PIN security features using payment card automated systems by providing customer information, such as date of birth, social security numbers, and expiration dates. The vast majority of this sensitive data was likely stolen by the malware. The automated system feature is also a concerning flaw in the card processing system.

Hackers also exploit automated systems to reset PIN numbers in attempt to counterfeit debit cards and withdraw cash. Reports suggest the financial consequence of the Wendy’s breach amounted to significantly more than prominently known debit card account hacks, such as those seen in Target and Home Depot recently.

Under Construction

Card readers nationwide are now expected to use the ‘chip’ feature to switch from outdated swiping, which was mandated by the payment card industry last October. However, you may have noticed that many chip readers are still under construction. Chip readers must be certified before they can be used for operation; nevertheless, the problem is that there is a shortage in technicians to certify these systems. What makes the situation more unfair is that merchants are responsible if they experience credit card counterfeit, even if the chip reader is ready for production but not yet certified. In a nutshell, the payment industry set guidelines, mandated a cutoff date, but continues to be unable to certify merchants, leaving the merchant responsible if they experience credit card fraud.

The Takeaway

The information provided is proof the retail industry is lacking thorough cybersecurity programs, as many retailers within the industry have suffered repercussions due to a lack of investment in proper security measures. While physical security measures should be put in place, the risks of not advancing comprehensive cybersecurity programs are usually more damaging. When implementing new technology in existing infrastructure, companies should assess the technology for flaws and the vendor’s commitment to maintaining a secure program in house.

The security measures a vendor uses to protect data and respond to breaches should be understood as well. Retail companies should be taking major leaps to ensure that they are constantly enhancing their cybersecurity programs, as hackers are continuously developing new technology to undermine modern day security.

It is evident that personal data leaks and financial fraud are substantially more likely to occur rather than physical theft in the modern world, and it is devastating when retailers are unaware of a major breach. In the end, strengthening the security of a brand ensures customers that you value their business.


What an Internship in Arlington Has Taught Me

by Admin 17. August 2016 04:58

By Lizzy Urtso, SEO Intern, Knucklepuck Media

Here is a little bit about me before we dive into things. I am a rising senior at Villanova University. This summer, I interned for Knucklepuck — an integrated digital media start-up agency — in Ballston,a neighborhood of Arlington. I also lived in Clarendon, another neighborhood in Arlington, during this 11-week internship.


So, how did I get this internship? I shadowed Knucklepuck in the winter of my junior year,and kept in contact with them over the spring semester. They did not have an internship program, but created one and took me on as their first intern!

So, what has an internship in Arlington taught me?

1. Be a Sponge – This is a good motto for life, but specifically in an internship. At a start-up, I was able to be a part of almost every aspect of the business. Since the landscape of digital marketing changes so rapidly, I was able to keep busy by adapting to new training and new strategies. This allowed for an incredibly hands-on experience — I definitely did not go get anyone’s coffee. I created content for websites, provided strategy recommendations to clients, helped create strategy for new initiatives, guest-starred in an SEO and Digital Marketing podcast, attended digital marketing networking events… The list goes on and on. 

This motto also applies to living in Arlington. Growing up in mostly rural areas, I absorbed the quick-paced life of a bustling county. Every day after work, I would stop by the 11th Street Park and watch people play with their dogs. Often, as a treat, I would stop by Bakeshop, right under my apartment. It’s little things like this that make your experience memorable.

2. Network Networking is something you should always be doing — it can never hurt to know more people! As a rising senior, I am on the job hunt. Interning at a company that pushed me to be a part of the community and go to networking events really helped me grow my personal network and the network of the company. I attended the DC Digital Analytics June 2016 Meet Up. At this event alone, I got six business cards and learned a lot about the industry. For anyone who wants to connect with their community, going to networking events is definitely recommended.

3. Go to the Food Trucks The food trucks on N. Stuart Street and Fairfax Drive are probably the only reason I survived (food-wise) this summer. Trucks come every day around lunch time and our team at Knucklepuck would always go on a “trek to the trucks,” even though it was only two blocks away. This is a must-do if you work/intern in the Ballston area!

4. Visit as Many Sites as You Can – This is one thing I wanted to do but did not take advantage of as much as I should have! The Arlington area is close to the nation’s capital. Just hop on the Orange Line and you will be there in a jiffy, with any monument, museum or cultural event right at your fingertips. I know I visited all the “touristy” monuments, but I was also able to go to the Arlington National Cemetery for the first time to visit a distant relative’s grave.

Hopefully some of these insights help you understand Arlington a little more! For me, living and interning in Arlington never disappointed, and I am planning to come back post-grad. I lived above a little bakery and a wine bar — what more could a girl ask for?

The Valuable Rewards of Participating in YEA!

by Admin 10. August 2016 04:51

By Laura Canseco, 2016 YEA! Participant

I started the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, or YEA!, last fall at Marymount University. I joined YEA! because starting from a young age, I have always been interested in starting a business, creating jobs, and making money. My father searched for programs to meet my interests, but he could never find one. One night after some researching, he found the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a national program that provides entrepreneurial training to middle and high school students. Luckily, there was an opportunity near our home at the Arlington Chamber Commerce. I applied immediately and enrolled into the YEA! Class of 2016.

At our first class, we brainstormed business ideas and got to know each other. It wasn’t until later that we each chose our business idea and decided whether we were partnering with someone else. My idea was to have a subscription box that delivered accessories for the customer's technology each month. I didn’t end up partnering with someone, but my idea was approved and I moved forward.­­

Each class, our teacher, Charlie, taught us lessons ranging from an elevator pitch to how to find our target market. After, a guest speaker, usually a local business owner, would come in to talk to us about their business. I remember vividly of one business owner, Karen Bate, coming in to talk to us about how she started Awesome Women Entrepreneurs, a group where women entrepreneurs meet monthly to share their experiences, give advice, and socialize. Speakers like Mrs. Bate came in to talk to us weekly. These meetings were inspirational and they gave us lots of helpful advice.

In my opinion, the biggest task we had was to write our business plan. Learning how to write a business plan was difficult and a little stressful. Even though we had an example of a business plan, it was still hard to write all the content that was needed. It was a long process filled with deadlines. However, when everyone submitted their business plan, everyone was relieved and our work was finally completed.

In February, there was a CEO Roundtable, where six CEO’s came to talk to us about their real-life experiences. They each talked about their business and we got to ask them questions. This CEO Roundtable was not just an informational class, but a session where we learned lifelong lessons and made connections with powerful people in the DC area.

In my opinion, the biggest event of the YEA! program is the Investor Panel in March. This event is where we pitch our ideas to a group of investors – basically a junior version of the show Shark Tank. Most importantly, this is the event where we receive our initial investment. The great thing is that everyone receives money, but the amount of money you receive depends on your business idea and presentation. In class, Charlie told us multiple times to make our presentations interesting, meaning, not only made up of paragraphs and words, but also including pictures and short bullets, so people wouldn’t get bored. I made sure that my presentation was intriguing and made people interested in my business. I practiced my presentation multiple times each day and finally on March 31, we presented to the investors. I ended up receiving the amount of money I asked for, which was $802. At the end of the panel, I felt that all my hard work had finally paid off.

Fast forward to now, where I am currently writing about my experience at YEA!. Through my involvement in the program, I, along with the other participants, learned the same content that actual business students learn, but in half the time. I think that YEA! is an amazing opportunity that teaches you not only how to start a business, but the important skills that you’ll need later in life, such as public speaking and building connections. Even if a YEA! student’s business does not succeed, they will be able to move forward with the valuable knowledge they acquired through this program, which will be key in helping them start and develop businesses in the future. Throughout my life, I have been enrolled in many after-school programs, but by far YEA! is the most useful and rewarding program that I’ve ever attended. All middle and high school students should take advantage of this incredible opportunity and get involved with YEA!. 

For more information about getting involved in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy please contact Membership Engagement Manager Alex Held at or (703) 525-2400.  

New Technology Makes for More Shorter Airport Waiting Time

by Admin 3. August 2016 05:18

By Christopher Paolino, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA)

New, innovative technology is decreasing wait times at Washington Dulles International Airport. With the addition of the Mobile Passport App, eligible passengers are able to use the app to securely save profiles on their smartphones, submit them electronically to Customs and Border Protection, and continue through dedicated lanes after arriving to Dulles. Canadian passport holders with a B1 or B2 visa status and U.S. passport holders are also authorized to use the app.

Dulles is the most recent airport to accept the app, which was developed as an alternative to filling out paper forms and waiting in a general queue to speak to a CBP official. Travelers are encouraged to download the app and enter their passport information before departing. Upon arrival, passengers must open the app again and answer a few questions about the trip, then submit the responses electronically once an internet signal is established on the ground. Passengers at Dulles should follow “Mobile Passport Control” signs to a dedicated lane where a CBP-generated code will be scanned from the phone. That code will need to be shown one last time after baggage claim to exit the CBP facility. It is important to remember that everyone must still travel with their passport in addition to using the app.

With the addition of Mobile Passport, there are now three ways travelers can use technology to ease their processing through Customs at Dulles International:

·         Global Entry – Requires an enrollment fee with an application submitted to CBP. Approved members can scan their passport and fingerprint at dedicated kiosks for expedited Customs processing. For U.S. citizens, permanent residents and citizens of a few foreign nations (see website). Global Entry members are also eligible to participate in TSA Pre-check for no additional fee.

·         Mobile Passport – No fee/download free app in advance of travel. Users of the app can proceed to a dedicated lane for expedited Customs processing after answering basic questions via the app. For U.S. citizens and Canadian citizens traveling with B1 or B2 visa status.

·         Dulles Passport Express – No fee / no enrollment required. Instead of filling out paper forms, travelers use kiosks in airport arrival hall and answer basic on-screen questions for expedited Customs processing. For U.S. citizens, permanent residents and returning visitors from countries participating in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program.

More information about the app, as well as links to download, can be found on the Dulles website or the Mobile Passport website.

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Arlington Community | Chamber | Travel

Four Weeks with the Chamber: An Intern’s Perspective

by Admin 27. July 2016 05:24

By Christine Xue, 2016 Arlington Chamber of Commerce PRIME Intern

Before starting my internship to the Chamber, I had never worked a day in my life. While this is not completely unheard of among 17-year-olds, I knew that I did not want to miss out on the opportunity to gain valuable early working experience.

Of course, I liked that having a job meant being able to call myself a working woman, but it was most important to me to find an opportunity that allowed me to work in an area I would be interested in studying in college. Lucky for me, and other students enrolled in Arlington Public Schools (APS)APS offers a four week internship program called Professional Related Intern/Mentorship Experience (PRIME), through which rising juniors and seniors are matched with local businesses and organizations that are related to the each student’s field of interest. This year, students in the PRIME program were matched with a variety of companies and organizations, from a traveling veterinarian service to an architectural and design firm. As for myself, I got matched with the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, and have enjoyed every second of my time here.

Christine InternMy own experiences at the Chamber have taught me many things. I learned how to use Excel, how to navigate and utilize the database system, and how to take advantage of all types of design software in order to create stunning infographics. While I initially did mostly database work, I was soon given many graphic design projects. Through the design work, I discovered how much I enjoy taking a blank page and turning it into something beautiful.

While many of us begin our internships with little practical experience, we leave with skills and knowledge that we could not have gotten without the exposure inherent in any internship. Aside from developing valuable skills, I gained valuable insight into how a Chamber of Commerce runs, as well as how all types of businesses function and are integrated with one another. Working in the database showed me how diverse many of the industries are that belong to the Chamber community. At first, I was puzzled how such contrasting businesses could all feel that they had something to gain from a membership at the Chamber, but I soon realized how important being a part of this community is in order to thrive. From the small, close-knit community of the Chamber employees to the large community of Arlington itself, it is vital to be connected with those around you.

Interning this summer has proven to be an invaluable experience for me and will continue to benefit me in my future endeavors. I would strongly urge any company to take an intern for even just a couple weeks, as there are many mutual benefits of such an exchange. For one, having interns is a way for companies to get involved with the community and give back to the new generation. Additionally, interns are an extra helping hand in the office, and can often provide refreshing new approaches to old methods. Lastly, by taking on interns, companies are increasing the value of the next generation of employees that they could be hiring in a few years. This small act of opening opportunities to help others creates a ripple effect of good faith that will eventually come full circle back to its origin—and it all starts with you.

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Is America Throwing Their Future into the Trash Can?

by Admin 20. July 2016 06:07

By Zach Williams, American Disposal Services

American’s typically throw away an estimated 254 million tons of trash every single day of the year in 2013, which is up 4 million tons from 2010 estimates.  What people do not seem to understand is that when something is thrown in the garbage can, it does not magically disappear. Trash has to go some place. This usually means landfills or incineration.

An In-Depth Look at These Two Options

While these two waste disposal options are the most popular, they are not without their own set of problems.


  • There are approximately 10,000 discontinued landfills and 3,000 active locations. Critics state that there are fewer landfills now than ever before, which is true, but what they don’t tell you is that the new landfills are much larger than ever before!
  • Landfills are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, such as methane. These garbage dump sites also leach toxic fluids, such as heavy metals, pesticides, and benzene, into the earth.
  • While landfills are supposed to be lined to prevent this leeching of contaminates into groundwater, over a period of time, all liners will crack, tear, or fail in some manner.


  • If garbage is not properly sorted, burning garbage can emit toxic mercury, dioxins, and cadmium into the air. This essentially converts plain garbage into toxic ash.
  • These toxic ashes are often spread out over existing landfills and are left exposed to the elements, including rain and wind, which can spread this toxic ash for miles

Is America’s Throwaway Society Throwing Out the Future? 

The amount of waste that is needlessly and thoughtlessly generated is staggering. Our garbage collectors at American Disposal Services see it on a daily basis. For example:

  • The typical office worker uses 500 disposable cups for water or coffee every single year.
  • Between the holidays of Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, millions of wasted food and party goods are generated each week; far over and above the usual amount. Enough ribbon is thrown out each year to tie a bow around our planet!
  • An estimated 2.6 holiday cards are sold each year, which is enough to fill a football field 10 stories tall!

Cutting Back on Waste

It is everyone’s responsibility to cut back on waste as much as possible. It’s easier than most people think. Small changes implemented by everyone, will add up to a better future for all of earth’s inhabitants.

1.Reduce Plastic

  • This is perhaps the biggest and most necessary change we should focus on. Plastic does not degrade, not now, not ever! Start by refusing plastic bags. Bring your own shopping bags to the grocery store. Carry a travel mug for coffee refills, stainless steel containers for water, and consume more fresh produce for snacks, rather than individual servings sold in plastic containers. Avoid plastic utensils and straws. Ask that your dry cleaning and newspapers be free from plastic coverings. Buy toys made from natural materials, such as wood, whenever possible.

2. Choose Reusable Not Single Use

  • This would include items such as washable, cloth diapers, glass containers for food products, handkerchiefs instead of tissue, rags or cloth towels instead of paper towels.

3.  Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose

  • Your grandparents or great grandparents were experts at finding new uses for old items, such as using worn out bathtubs in the garden for flowers or as a water feature, turning old tires into planters or chairs, and making aprons out of old shirts.

4. Start a Compost Pile

  • Garbage collectors hate the fall season most of all because people throw out tons of green waste that could be turned into healthy compost for the garden. A quick internet search will give you hundreds of ideas on how to make or buy a container that fits your living space.
We at American Disposal Services are proud to keep as much waste as possible from needlessly going into landfills by working together with The American Recycling Center to remove items from household garbage that can be recycled. 

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Summer Fun in Arlington

by Admin 12. July 2016 11:50

By Staff, Arlington Chamber of Commerce

While many people in Arlington utilize the summer time to take vacations, there are still a number of activities going on in Arlington’s dynamic urban villages for you and your employees to enjoy during and after work if you plan to stay around the County. 

Looking for something fun to do in Ballston this summer?  Check out the events the Ballston Business Improvement District is hosting this summer.   


Want something fun to do in Crystal City after work or even during your lunch break?  Check out the different events the Crystal City Business Improvement District is hosting.


If you work or live in Rosslyn, check out the different events the Rosslyn Business Improvement District is hosting.  From outdoor movies to workouts, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

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Holidays | Travel | Young Professionals

An Open Letter to Northern Virginians: We Need to Talk About Mental Health

by Admin 29. June 2016 08:57

By Dr. Sunil Budhrani, Chief Medical Officer, Innovation Health

Even for a medical expert, mental health can be a difficult topic to talk about.

I know the terminology, proper treatment plans and resources. But as a society (even among health providers), we often don't know how to talk to those in need of mental health support - sometimes including ourselves. It's uncomfortable. It's emotional. It's personal. So we don't share. Don't ask. Don't act. And suicide rates across our nation skyrocket.

We need to talk about mental health.

When I joined Innovation Health as Chief Medical Officer last month, I sat down with my team and we made a collective decision. We decided to speak from our own personal experiences with mental health, however imperfectly. Because talking about mental health is the best way to truly help remove the stigma associated with mental health conditions.

Working as an ER doctor, I frequently saw patients whose anxiety and depression had gone unmanaged and ultimately led them to attempt suicide. Some I was able to help. For others there was nothing I could do. I realized that many times these patients weren't getting the help they needed because they feared being labeled or misunderstood. Time and again, I saw that the cost of not treating these symptoms could be fatal.

Now, after so many years, so many news reports, and seeing so many of my colleagues and friends struggle, it is clear to me that we must confront the topic of mental health head-on if we are truly going to make a difference. I hope you'll join me in becoming the catalyst for change in how we talk about mental health; our willingness to start the conversation can impact so many Americans.

The proof is in the numbers: according to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in four adults and one in five children in the U.S. have a diagnosable mental health condition. In Virginia, more than 230,000 adults - roughly 3.8 percent of the population - have experienced a serious mental illness. These facts tell me one thing; we are not alone. We all know someone, work with someone, or love someone who struggles with mental illness. We may struggle with it ourselves. The fact is that anxiety, depression and substance abuse touch every community. The time to accept this is now. The time to speak up and reach out is now.

Many people don't get the services they need because they don't know where to start. If you or someone you know is struggling, you can start the healing process by following these three steps:


  1. Talk to a primary care physician (PCP) about your mental health. They can help connect you with the right mental health support. If you do not have a PCP, I highly recommend you select one for your general health care needs.
  2. Educate yourself. Visit the Innovation Health website to take a depression or anxiety assessment or call 703-289-7560 to schedule an in-person assessment with a trained counselor.
  3. Be proactive about mental well-being. If you know someone who may be experiencing symptoms related to a mental health condition, encourage them to get the help they need.


It is never easy or comfortable to approach situations like this, but as a community we can't let our fear or doubts stop us from helping others or ourselves dealing with mental illness. Talk about mental health with your family, friends, and colleagues, you may not realize it now but having the courage to speak up may help someone you care about.

Together we can work to build a healthier world. But first, we have to start the conversation. 

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3 Things You Can Do to Help Protect your Business

by Admin 22. June 2016 06:42

By Indy Zakaryte, Supporting Strategies - Northern Virginia

Your accounting service provider is in a position of trust - he or she works with the finances of your company. Ideally, your bookkeeper is your trusted advisor, a valuable member of your team who works to help achieve your company's vision and goals. That's why it's disheartening to hear stories about bookkeeping service providers abusing this position of trust. It's not a common occurrence, but it does happen and every now and again a news story crops up about a bookkeeper slowly embezzling thousands of dollars.

Here are a few things you can do to help protect your business from embezzlement:

1) Do Your Homework 

If someone you know refers a bookkeeper to you, ask how long he or she has worked for them. Financial deception can go on for a very long period of time without the business owner knowing that a problem exists; therefore, look for a candidate who worked for the company for more than a year. Be sure to do a background check as well.

2) Be Involved 

If you are doing your own bookkeeping, it will save you a lot of time to hire a bookkeeper or outsourcing to an accounting firm.  However, as a business owner, you need to stay involved and oversee the bookkeeper's work. Looking at the financial statements routinely is not enough - it is important to review the details as well. For example, one way that a bookkeeper can embezzle funds is to create a vendor that doesn't exist and pay themselves through the fake vendor. Over time, even small payments will add up to significant loses. Make sure that all accounts (payroll, accounts receivable, and accounts payable) are reconciled every month so that you don't miss any important details. 

3) Work with a Firm that Values Security 

If you're working with a bookkeeping services firm, make sure you choose one that puts a high premium on your security. Ask the company about its hiring process and whether or not they do background checks. Find out what systems and protocols are in place to prevent fraud. You want to choose a firm that relies on a system of checks and balances. It shouldn't be the case that only one person oversees your business' finances - there should be a team involved checking and overseeing each other's work.

Outsourcing accounting services is an important step for a growing business. It will enable you to put more of your energy into your core business. Just take the time to do your homework when choosing a bookkeeper, stay involved by reviewing the details, and choose an account services firm with secure systems and protocols in place. 

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"You're Fired!" - Or "I Quit!" - Remains Good Law in Virginia

by Admin 17. June 2016 10:40

 By Doug Taylor, Bean, Kinney, & Korman

It is still the law in Virginia that “You’re fired!” or words to that effect, is all that is needed in the way of advance notice of termination by an employer to an at-will employee. From the employee’s perspective, “I quit!” works equally well as advance termination notice to an at-will employer. “Reasonable notice” in the context of at-will employment does not mean that an employee is entitled to advance notice of termination, the Supreme Court of Virginia confirmed last week in Johnston v. William E. Wood & Associates.

You Know About “At-Will” Employment, Right?

At-will employment is a bedrock principle of Virginia’s employment law. An at-will employee is “at liberty to leave his employment for any reason or for no reason.” Likewise, an employer is free to terminate its relationship with an at-will employee “without the need to articulate a reason.” At-will employment has been recognized in Virginia for more than 100 years. In Stonega Coal & Coke Co. v. Louisville & Nashville R.R. Co., the Court decided:

[W]hen an employment contract does not specify a ... duration, ‘either party is ordinarily at liberty to terminate it at will on giving reasonable notice of his intention to do so.’

In the century since Stonega, courts have echoed the phrase “reasonable notice,” but Virginia’s highest court has never decided what “reasonable notice” actually means. In Johnston, the issue was “whether reasonable notice means “advance notice.”

Johnston Claims “Reasonable Notice” Means “Advance Notice”

Brenda Johnston, a seventeen year at-will employee of William E. Wood & Associates, sued for wrongful discharge when Wood terminated her employment without advance notice. Her claim? Reasonable notice has a “temporal requirement,” i.e., it must be provided at a reasonable time before the termination of employment. Johnston noted that Virginia courts were split on this issue, although a number of them had concluded that “reasonable notice” did not equate to advance notice.

Wood Argues That Notice is Reasonable if It Conveys That Employment Has Ended

Wood claimed that notice “means nothing more than communication of termination by the terminating party.” The concept of at-will employment completely loses its meaning, Wood argued, unless it is interpreted to mean that the employee should be free to walk away from an undesirable job without giving advance notice, just as an employer should not be tethered by an advance notice requirement to an at-will employee it does not want or need.

Wood Has It Right, the Court Concludes

The Court rejected Johnston’s theory that there is an advance notice requirement to “reasonable notice.” Rather, in a Virginia at-will employment relationship, notice is deemed reasonable if it coveys to the other party “that the employment relationship has ended.”

Definitive notice has a tangible benefit for both employees and employers, the Court wrote. Without effective notice that the employment relationship has been terminated, an employee could continue to work, learning only later that she was no longer an employee and would not be paid for time worked. An employer, in contrast, faces the prospect of compensating an employee who no longer works there in the absence of definitive notice.

The Court was concerned that substantial uncertainty in employment relations would result if it adopted Johnston’s advance notice requirement to at-will employment. “Reasonable notice” is not objectively quantifiable. It would vary based on each employment situation, with the effect that:

[E]very employer would have to gauge what is reasonable advance notice under the circumstances, and if the employer guesses wrong, face the prospect of an expensive trial with an uncertain outcome. Conversely, employees could be sued by their employers for failing to provide sufficient advance notice before leaving, thus deterring employees from seeking better prospects elsewhere.

The Takeaway from Johnston

Johnston confirmed that at-will employment remains a fundamental legal doctrine in Virginia; one that does not require either employers or employees to provide advance notice of an intention to end the employment relationship. However, Johnston does not alter fundamental principles of Virginia contract law.  Employment agreements or employee policies that graft an advance notice period onto the employment relationship can create enforceable contract rights for both employers and employees and must be honored.

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