The agency I'm interested in is the Virginia Employment Commission, and the law is the Virginia Unemployment Compensation Act, but the question is also more generic.

My understanding is that the state government generally can not be sued in state court, but what happens if they break the law? What recourse is available?

If the answer depends on the particular jurisdiction, then I'm most interested in the Commonwealth of Virginia (of course).

I've researched this a bit, and what I've found is that the Virginia Tort Claims Act allows the state government to be sued for negligent actions of its employees, but that law (VA Code § 8.01-195.3) specifically excludes "Any claim arising out of the institution or prosecution of any judicial or administrative proceeding", which I interpret as providing state administrative agencies pretty broad immunity, even if they violate the law they are supposed to implement.

1 Answer 1


Realistically, there is no claim for money damages under state law.

One could appeal the results of an individual administrative determination to the appropriate higher court.

One could also sue for injunctive or declaratory relief to require the individuals administering the agency (ideally the lowest level official who has the authority to bring it into compliance) to act in accordance with the law.

Unless a federal constitutional right is violated in a non-judicial fashion, there is no claim for money damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 either.

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