While the U.S. Virgin Islands are a U.S. territory, they haven’t had easy access to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC until July of this year. That’s when the EEOC opened an office in San Juan, Puerto Rico to cover both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. They did this because of the increasing numbers of job discrimination claims from the two territories. Until July, they had to go through the New York District Office.
While the Virgin Islands does have its own anti-discrimination statutes, they don’t have protection for the employees if they do complain about discrimination. The EEOC, however, enforces federal law (Title VII) which does offer this protection as well as the Equal Pay Act.
This federal law requires employers to follow the Equal Pay Act which states that men and women who have equal jobs (in terms of skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions) must have equal pay. Title VII prohibits employers from making job condition decisions based on an individual’s sex. These decisions include hiring, firing and determining job terms, privileges and compensation.
Now, the people of the Virgin Islands will be able to go through the federal law easier than before because of the new office. People who want to go through the EEOC to file a discrimination complaint will need to contact the office within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act. You’ll need to provide your contact information, your employer’s contact information and a detailed description of the incident including the names of the people involved and the dates of relevant incidents.
You and your employer can also enter mediation through the EEOC if you both agree to that route. This is an informal process that strives to negotiate a settlement.
Especially with this new change in the labor laws for the Virgin Islands, it’s important for employers and employees to stay informed on their rights and responsibilities. To help with this process, employers should always keep an updated version of the Virgin Islands Complete Labor Law Poster posted for their employees.