On April 7, 2006, the United States Virgin Islands enacted Act No. 6829, which extends the scope of the territorial laws concerning sexual harassment and imposes substantial requirements on employers with respect to prohibiting sexual harassment. The Act amends Chapter 5 of the Virgin Islands Civil Rights Act and Chapter 17 of the Virgin Islands Discrimination in Employment Act.
As a result of Act No. 6829, Chapter 5 of the Virgin Islands Civil Rights Act has been amended to add a new section, 10 V.I.C. § 64a, which requires all employers in the territory to adopt and distribute to each employee a written sexual harassment policy that meets certain requirements. These requirements are more onerous than most standard anti-harassment policies. Employers are required to maintain copies of the written policy at their business premises and to make copies available to employees and any territorial or federal employment discrimination enforcement agency upon request.
Moreover, all employers with five (5) or more employees are now required to conduct a training program with all of their employees concerning the sexual harassment policy. Additional training must be provided to supervisors and managers addressing their specific responsibilities under the policy. Smaller employers are encouraged to provide the same type of training.
This new Act also states that “any person responsible for sexual harassment in employment” “shall incur civil liability” for “double the amount of damages that the action has caused the employee or job applicant” (or not less than $5,000 in those cases were there is no actual loss). Thus, the Act creates individual, personal liability for supervisors, managers and even co-workers who are found to be “responsible for sexual harassment.” Further, the employer will be required to hire, promote or reinstate the employee and to cease the act in question.
The Act also adds a new section to Chapter 17 of the Discrimination in Employment Act, 24 V.I.C. § 451a. This section makes it unlawful to retaliate against any employee who reports or is about to report any discrimination to a “public body” (or if someone acting on behalf of the employee reports or is about to report) or is requested by a public body to participate in an investigation, hearing or inquiry held by the public body or a court.
The only exception to this provision is if the “employee knows the report is false.” This section also allows the employee to file a lawsuit for injunctive relief and/or actual damages based on any alleged retaliation.
Should you require assistance in developing effective and compliant policies and training for your Virgin Islands workplace, contact the Ogletree Deakins attorney with whom you normally work or the Client Services Department at 800-603-1252 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This article was published in the April 17, 2006 issue of the U.S. Virgin Islands eAuthority.