On July 19, 2006, the United States Virgin Islands enacted Act No. 6829, which directs employers in the territory to provide rest periods and meal breaks to their employees, unless provision is made in a written contract or collective bargaining agreement. The Act amends Chapter 1 of Title 24 of the Virgin Islands Code.
Mandatory Rest Periods
As a result of the new law, unless an employer provides otherwise in a written contract or collective bargaining agreement, it must allow a minimum paid rest period of 10 minutes within each four hours of continuous work. The rest period may not be added to the meal period and an employer may not effectively shorten a work day by allowing the employee to take a rest period at the beginning or end of the work period. The Act further states that if the rest period is not provided in accordance with the law, the employee shall make up the missed rest period within the same work day, or within the same pay period. Otherwise, the employer must pay the employee one-half hour pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each rest period that is not provided.
In addition to the exception for employers that provide otherwise in a written contract or collective bargaining agreement, the new law does not apply to employees whose total daily work time is less than four hours, or to employers that employ an individual who (1) is 18 years or older; (2) works alone; (3) in a service or retail establishment; and (4) is allowed to leave an assigned work station to use restroom facilities.
Mandatory Meal Break
Under the new law, an employer also must provide an uninterrupted meal period of 30 minutes no later than five hours after the start of the work period. The employee must be relieved of all duties during the meal period, except that an “on-duty” meal period may be provided if an employer can show that the circumstances of the work prevent the employee from being relieved of his or her duties. Meal periods are not included in the work period, unless the employee performs duties during the meal period.
The Act grants the Commissioner of Labor authority to consider and allow exemptions to employers with respect to one or more of these requirements if the employer can demonstrate business necessity and show that the exemption would not materially affect the welfare of employees. The Commissioner also may exempt a defined category of employers after holding a hearing to consider the business necessity and impact on the employees’ welfare.
An employee may voluntarily agree to forego the meal and rest periods. However, the employer has the burden of proving such an agreement.
Should you require further information, contact the Ogletree Deakins attorney with whom you normally work or the Client Services Department via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 866-287-2576.
Note: This article was published in the July 21, 2006 issue of the U.S. Virgin Islands eAuthority.