Del. Marie March, R-Floyd County. From campaign website.
Del. Marie March, R-Floyd County. From campaign website.

A judge in Richmond Circuit Court on Thursday allowed part of an unpaid wages lawsuit brought against Del. Marie March, R-Floyd County, by a former legislative aide to go forward.

Tambra Blankenship is a Giles County resident who worked for March for a few months last summer, according to the lawsuit. In October, she sued March for unpaid wages under both the Virginia Overtime Wage Act and the Virginia Minimum Wage Act. 

Judge William Marchant dismissed Blankenship’s claim under the overtime act but allowed the portion of the suit filed under the minimum wage act to proceed.

That aspect of the lawsuit alleges that March failed to pay Blankenship for work she did associated with March’s businesses and personal life that fell outside of her state-funded role as a legislative aide.

According to March’s website, she owns several businesses, including the restaurant Due South BBQ. At the time Blankenship was working for her, March also owned Fatback Soul Shack, which closed in December. 

Blankenship’s lawyer, Thomas Strelka, said in court Thursday that March had Blankenship doing work for her restaurants, such as scheduling restaurant employees, that “only further[ed] the interest of these businesses” and fell outside of the scope of work of a legislative aide.

Blankenship was doing work for March’s business on top of her normal 40-hour work week, Strelka said in court. In total, Blankenship claims she worked 50 hours a week or more, including weekends. 

The judge gave Blankenship 30 days to provide March and her lawyers with a list of the work she claims she did for March in a personal capacity, including dates and times.

March declined to comment on the case.

Blankenship also had sought to be compensated for unpaid overtime in her work as a legislative aide, when she “regularly worked more than forty (40) hours per week” but wasn’t paid for all of the hours, according to the suit. Initially there was also a push to make this portion of the case a class action lawsuit brought by legislative aides who also felt they were owed overtime from this period, but that case was dismissed.

Marchant didn’t allow that claim to go forward. 

Under the 2021 Virginia Overtime Wage Act, the state’s sovereign immunity against overtime lawsuits was briefly waived. Blankenship’s suit sought overtime only for the short period she was employed by March while the waiver was in place — from June 27 to July 1, 2022.

But the Virginia Overtime Statute incorporates guidance from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which applies when an employer fails to pay an employee the full amount on their payday, not the day they start work. Since Blankenship’s first payday was July 15, after the state’s immunity from overtime suits was back in place, Assistant Attorney General Brittany McGill, who was representing March, argued in court that Blankenship couldn’t sue for overtime pay. 

Marchant said before he did the research his intuition was to side with Blankenship and apply the law the day she started work. But after reading more he thought it was clear they needed to adhere to the federal guidance.

“I’m not sure it actually feels right, but that’s what the statute says,” he said.

A date has not yet been set for a jury trial on the remaining portion of the lawsuit. McGill told Marchant that she needed to speak to her office to determine if it would still be representing March now that the portion of the suit that involved her role as a legislator had been dismissed. Once it’s clear whether March will be represented by the state or by a private lawyer, the final court date can be set.

March lost a primary battle in June to Del. Wren Williams, R-Patrick County, after redistricting placed them in the same district.

Brooke Stephenson is digital audience engagement editor for Cardinal News. Reach her at