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Readying Your Workplace for the Summer and Start of Hurricane Season: Rising Minimum Wage and Other Considerations for Employers in the U.S. Virgin Islands

With just weeks left before the start of summer, employers in the U.S. Virgin Islands may wish to ensure that they are in compliance with applicable laws governing wage payments. Effective June 1, 2018, the Virgin Islands minimum wage will increase from $9.50 per hour to $10.50 per hour. Employers should keep in mind that employees of businesses with gross receipts of less than $150,000 per year and employees who are under the age of 18 or who are full-time high school students are entitled to be compensated in accordance with the territory’s minimum wage laws. Accordingly, all employers with operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands may wish to review their existing wage schedules and effectuate adjustments to the wages of any employees who are currently earning the minimum wage.

Additionally, under the existing law, tourist service and restaurant workers who are tipped employees must be paid not less than 40 percent of the minimum wage. Effective June 1, 2018, tipped employees in those industries will be entitled to a minimum cash wage of $4.20.

As June 1, 2018, also marks the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, employers in the U.S. Virgin Islands may want to assess the extent to which existing disaster plans withstood the challenges of the 2017 hurricane season, modify those plans as warranted based upon recent experience, and ensure that employees understand what is expected of them in the event a hurricane warning is issued or if a hurricane makes landfall. This may be an opportune time for employers to confirm that managers, supervisors, and other employees are aware of policies relating to planned and unplanned leaves, including any “no call/no show” policies that could result in disciplinary action and any exceptions to those policies that may be implemented in the event of an actual or threatened hurricane.

In addition, employers should be prepared to comply with wage and hour laws when weather-related interruptions occur. Unless obligated to do so by the terms of an applicable collective bargaining agreement, employers are not required to pay nonexempt employees for weather-related absences. However, if an employer’s on-call policy requires a nonexempt employee to remain on the employer’s premises, or so close to the employer’s premises that the employee cannot effectively use the time for his or her own purposes, it is likely that the employee would be deemed to be working and entitled to compensation for the on-call time. On the other hand, if the nonexempt employee is simply required to provide a means by which he or she may be reached, it is possible that the employee would not be deemed to be working or entitled to compensation for the “on-call” time.

An employer’s obligations differ with respect to salaried, exempt employees. In general, an employer may not deduct from an exempt employee’s salary for less than a full day’s absence. Accordingly, if an exempt employee reports to work for part of a day in anticipation of an early closure for weather-related reasons, or if the exempt employee performs any work remotely during the day, the employee must be paid for the full day regardless of whether the employer’s business is open or closed on that day. On the other hand, if the exempt employee is absent, performs no work, and has no available leave, the employer may not be required to pay the employee for full days that he or she was absent, provided that the employee performed no work during the workweek in question. If the salaried, exempt employee has available leave, the employer can require the exempt employee to utilize that leave in accordance with the employer’s policies.

© 2018, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.

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Simone Francis concentrates her practice in the areas of employment litigation, environmental counseling and litigation, and general litigation. She has represented a range of large, mid-sized, and small employers in litigation before the federal and local courts in the U.S. Virgin Islands and elsewhere in the United States, and also has acted as an advocate before administrative tribunals, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Virgin Islands Department of Labor, the Civil Rights Commission, and the Public Employees Relations Board. In addition, Ms....

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