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  • Professionals Are Not Protected By the Virgin Islands Wrongful Discharge Act




    Who is covered under the VIWDA?

    The VIWDA applies to all regular employees in the Virgin Islands who have been employed by an employer for at least six (6) months, with certain specific exceptions.

    Who is not covered under the VIWDA?

    The VIWDA does not apply to public employees, seamen, agricultural laborers, volunteers, temporary aliens, or domestic servants.  The VIWDA also does not apply to executives and professionals.

    Who are considered professionals under the VIWDA?

    The VIWDA does not specifically define who qualifies as an executive or professional.  In some cases, the Virgin Islands Department of Labor has turned to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for guidance.  The FLSA lists some categories of professionals who are exempt from the FLSA:  certified medical technologists, nurses, dental hygienists, physician assistants, accountants, chefs, paralegals, athletic trainers, and funeral directors.  Medical doctors, lawyers, and some teachers are also exempt from the FLSA.  Only persons who meet specific educational and training requirements meet these definitions.

    An employee’s title does not guarantee the FLSA does or does not apply.  Additionally, FLSA may not apply to every employee; however it is important to know that it does not leave an employee without a solution. There may be other ways to enforce the rights outside of the FLSA.

    If you need further information, please do hesitate to call us.

  • New Time Standards For Superior Court Cases

    Why does the Superior Court need time standards for adjudicating cases?

    Timely disposition of court cases has long been a concern in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Constitutional considerations require criminal matters to be adjudicated within certain time frames. However, these standards do not apply to civil cases. Complex civil matters have often taken second priority in recent years, resulting in lengthy litigation and delayed disposition of cases. Many state and local courts have adopted time standards to improve the quality of services provided to the public.

    How long does it take for a Superior Court case to be decided?

    In 2013, the Superior Court acknowledged the problem of protracted litigation and took significant steps toward resolving the issue by adopting time standards to increase efficiency and productivity. The time standards took effect on June 1, 2013. Significantly, routine civil matters are now to be disposed within 270 days (approximately 1 ½ years) and “more complex” civil matters are to be resolved within 730 days (2 years) of filing. Most other civil matters are to be resolved within 90 days of filing. However, it is important to note these time standards represent goals for the disposition of cases and are not guarantees that any individual case will be decided within a particular time frame.

    How will the adoption of time standards impact Virgin Islands litigants?

    These time schedules establish goals the Superior Court will strive to achieve moving forward. For litigants, the time standards represent a renewed commitment to improving access to the courts and increasing public confidence in the justice system. These standards will help protect the rights of Virgin Islanders, since justice delayed truly is justice denied.

  • Affordable Care Act

    Many clients have asked if and how the Affordable Care Act (“Obama Care”) affects the citizens and employers of the Territory. 

    Simple answer, it doesn’t.

    The Affordable Care Act is designed in three parts:  market reform, which includes guaranteed issue, adjusted community rating, and prohibitions against preexisting condition exclusions and other consumer protections intended to address problems that have been identified in the individual insurance market.   Full application of the Affordable Care Act relies on the definition of the word “state.”  If “state” is defined to include the Territories, then the Act applies.  However, if “state” is defined narrowly to include the fifty (50) states and the District of Columbia, the then the Act does not apply. The ACA does not define the Territory as a State.

    Following passage of the Affordable Care Act, Governor John deJong Jr. created a task force to provide guidance and recommendations regarding initiatives to implement the Act.  The task forces concluded that the disjointed application of the Act’s provisions to the territories and its insufficient allocation of the federal funds significantly limits the Virgin Islands’ opportunity to expand health care coverage to uninsured Virgin Islanders.  Final recommendation to the Governor was to utilize the funding provided under the law to expand Medicaid instead of establishing an Exchange.