Virgin Islands Law Blog

Virgin Islands Law Blog

U.S. Virgin Islands law & politics

New Administration Could Bring Changes to US Employment Law

Posted in Labor & Employment

With President-Elect Donald J. Trump set to take office this Friday, January 20, there may be numerous changes to U.S. labor policy on the horizon.

Trump, who during his campaign pledged to roll back regulations on businesses, will have the benefit of Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, potentially enabling him to take quick action on a number of policy items. Although it’s difficult to say for sure what this will look like, it appears likely that the incoming president will push back against some of the more worker-friendly policies of current President Barack Obama.

In December, Trump nominated Andrew Puzder, a former fast food industry executive, as his Secretary of Labor. Puzder has been a vocal opponent of movements like the push to raise the minimum wage, and he generally believes that businesses are over-regulated across the United States.

One of the more immediate impacts we are likely to see in a Trump administration is the complete suspension of the overtime exemptions that had been set to take effect back in December. The Department of Labor’s new exemptions were supposed to nearly double the minimum salary required for white-collar employees to qualify for overtime pay. However, in late November, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction on the rule’s implementation.

The rule, which would impact more than 4 million workers throughout the United States and its territories, could be suspended or completely reversed under a Trump administration.

Equal pay and immigration issues in question

One interesting development to watch with the new administration will be pay equity. While Trump has expressed support for legislation that would require employers to provide equal pay for equal work, Vice President-Elect Mike Pence and other top Republicans have publicly opposed these measures. The question thus becomes whether the president will push back against his own party to support pay equity.

When it comes to immigration, Trump has signaled that he would push for a national E-Verify program, which is now only required of private employers in 20 states. It may also become more difficult for businesses to secure H1-B visas for highly skilled workers, and I-9 audits could become more commonplace. All this has businesses that employ large numbers of immigrant workers concerned about their ability to hire and retain staff members in the near future.

This is certainly a time of upheaval in the world of immigration and employment law in the United States and its territories. We will continue to monitor these issues in the months to come, and advise our numerous clients on how they should prepare for and react to policy changes as they occur. If you have any questions about these issues and how they could impact your business or organization, be sure to contact an experienced attorney.

 

Ravinder S. Nagi is Assistant Managing Attorney and Chair of the Labor and Employment Law Practice Group at BoltNagi, a well-established and respected labor law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

What to Do if Your Business is a Victim of Cybersquatting

Posted in Labor & Employment

Imagine you have a great idea for a business and have picked out the perfect name. You rush to GoDaddy to register it, only to find that some other party has already purchased it and is apparently doing nothing with it. Unfortunately, it’s an issue many entrepreneurs face across the globe.

Known as cybersquatting, this practice involves individuals or organizations registering numerous domain names attached to various trademarks, with the intention of cashing in if and when those trademarks get sold. These squatters try to purchase as many domain names as possible that are closely linked to a high-profile individual or business, profiting by association. They might, for example, register domain names with slight misspellings to get people who enter typos into their web searches.

There are a few ways you can tell if you have been the victim of a cybersquatter. Your first step should be to check to see if the domain name you wish to register has been claimed by someone else. If so, visit the website and see if it’s legitimate. If it is a functional site that’s related to the domain name, then you were probably not the victim of a squatter. You should probably look at other domain name options.

However, if any of the following factors apply to the site, then you could very well be looking at a squatter-owned site:

  • The website is perpetually under construction, likely for at least a year or more
  • Your browser is unable to find the website or displays an error, despite evidence showing that someone owns the domain name
  • The website has no relation to the domain name in question

Although these indicators do not necessarily mean someone is squatting your domain, they are certainly enough evidence to provide reasonable suspicion.

What to do if you suspect a squatter

If you have reason to believe the person is cybersquatting, you have several strategies available to you. First, you can visit www.whois.com to look up the information of the domain name registrant, and then directly contact that person to determine the purpose of the domain. In many cases, it is far cheaper to pay for the domain name, as litigation can be costly and take up a lot of time. This is, of course, what the squatter is counting on.

However, you are able file a civil claim under the “Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act” (ACPA). If you win the suit, the cybersquatter will receive a court order to transfer the domain name to you, and potentially pay you damages.

Here’s what it takes to be successful in this type of lawsuit:

  • Proof that you had a distinctive trademark when the domain name was registered;
  • Proof the domain name registrant registered the domain in bad faith with intent to profit;
  • Proof the registered domain is identical or at least reasonably similar to your trademark; and
  • Proof your trademark is protectable under federal law

If the registrant is to successfully defend against the claim, they must prove there was a reason for them to register the domain other than to eventually sell it.

To learn more about the issue of cybersquatting and to determine if you need to take legal action, consult an experienced corporate law and intellectual property attorney who is up to date on the latest in cybersecurity.

 

BoltNagi is a well-established civil litigation and business law firm proudly serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

How to Best Protect Your Customers’ Data and Other Sensitive Information

Posted in Labor & Employment

In an age when so much happens online, businesses must be willing to commit to digital security to best protect the sensitive data and information of themselves and their customers. In fact, some estimates indicate that the global market for cybersecurity will surpass $80 billion next year, indicating just how important this issue has become.

To help your business start to address this complex issue, the following are a few best practices for protecting sensitive data on your networks.

  • Invest in a dedicated server: Many small businesses use shared servers to host their files. While this can be a cheaper option, it also means that multiple parties may have access to that server. If another website on the server has weak security, your site could be vulnerable, as well. A dedicated server can be worth the extra expense for the peace of mind it provides.
  • Encrypt all your data: You should never keep sensitive information and records unencrypted. If your network is somehow compromised, unencrypted information is an easy target for cyber criminals.
  • Always monitor for malware: Establish programs monitoring your website’s security at all times so you can be alerted instantly to the presence of any malware. As soon as your site has been infected or has the potential to be compromised, you will be able to address the problem before it gets out of control.
  • Keep access restricted: Access to sensitive files containing personal customer information should be on a “need to know” basis only. Keep all files in a single, centralized location, whether they are digital files in one server location or physical files in a filing cabinet in a locked room.
  • Regularly shred paper documents: If you keep physical copies of the information you store online, be sure to properly dispose of it. Shred or burn any sensitive customer data—simply throwing it in the trash or recycling is not good enough.
  • Permanently delete digital files: Simply moving a file to the trash bin on your computer does not wipe it from your files. There are still traces of the file that allow it to be recovered. There are a variety of programs that make it easy to permanently delete these files when you are ready to do so.
  • Always have a response plan ready for a breach: You need to be prepared in the event a breach does occur. This should include isolating the problem, notifying any customers who may have been affected and resolving the situation as soon as possible. You should never attempt to conceal a breach from your customers—be as open and honest as you can be.

Cyber security must be a crucial component of your company’s digital operations. Be sure to consult an information technology professional to establish a plan for your business, and speak with a knowledgeable intellectual property attorney to ensure you are covering all your legal bases.

 

Tom Bolt is Managing Attorney of BoltNagi, a widely respected and well-established intellectual property law firm serving businesses and organizations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Different Types of Commercial Insurance and How They May Apply to Your Business

Posted in Labor & Employment

With all the risks that come with running a small business, it’s critically important for owners and entrepreneurs to have proper insurance coverage to protect against unexpected catastrophes. There are many different forms of commercial insurance available to cover a variety of risks.

Property insurance policies

Property insurance is a category encompassing a variety of insurance policies that cover losses and damages to real or personal property. Examples of these policies include:

  • Debris removal: This covers any costs associated with clearing and removing debris after your business has been damaged by a flood, fire, tornado or other natural disaster. Before you can start rebuilding and repairing your property, you must be able to remove all the debris, making this coverage extremely useful.
  • Builder’s risk: This type of insurance covers buildings during their construction. If, for example, a windstorm takes down part of a building during the construction process, those losses would be covered.
  • Boiler and machinery: Boiler and machinery insurance protects you in the event of an accidental breakdown of equipment, such as boilers and other crucial building machinery. It will cover both property damage and business interruption losses.
  • Business interruption: This type of policy covers losses you suffer because of interruptions to your businesses due to natural disasters or property damage.
  • Crime: Crime insurance covers various property crimes such as vandalism, theft, robbery and burglary of products, money and stock by customers, employees or other parties.

Other forms of insurance

Outside of the property insurance umbrella, there are numerous other forms of insurance coverage that can protect your company. The following are a few examples:

  • Liability insurance: Any damage you cause to third parties is covered under liability insurance. For example, if someone files a personal injury or premises liability claim against you, the cost of resolving and defending that claim would be covered under your policy.
  • Malpractice insurance: Also known as professional liability insurance, this type of policy protects you if your conduct falls below a certain standard of care for your profession, resulting in injuries or losses to another party.
  • Car insurance: Commercial auto insurance covers any company vehicles you have that you use specifically for business purposes.
  • Workers’ compensation insurance: This policy covers you if any of your employees suffer injuries on the job, regardless of whose fault those injury were.

These are just a few of the many forms of commercial insurance available for business owners in the U.S. Virgin Islands. For further guidance on this important, consult an experienced business law attorney.

 

BoltNagi is a widely respected and established business and corporate law attorney serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Cybersecurity: What Today’s Business Owners Need to Know

Posted in Corporate & Financial Services, Labor & Employment

Author_Hariom_Chaudhary_Advance_Ethical_Hacking_and_Cyber_Security_Boot_Camp_at_Delhi,_IndiaWhen you own or operate a small business, you may feel as if you need to understand and manage a never-ending list of issues and concerns just to ensure the safe, secure and effective operation of your business.

There may be one more you need to add to the list: cybersecurity. As technology continues to advance around us, so too does the sophistication by which cybercriminals attempt to access sensitive information from online networks.

There are several main types of cyberattacks that all business owners should be aware of. Let’s start with the most common.

Viruses

Viruses are the form of malware with which most people have at least some level of familiarity. A virus is either a program or a piece of code that gets delivered to your device without your knowledge, typically packed into other downloads or deceptive email attachments. Depending on the virus, it could have any number of devastating effects on your computer or business network. For example, some viruses seek out and delete certain files, while others shut down computers and networks completely.

Make sure you have antivirus software on your company’s computers and network and keep them updated at all times so you can perform regular virus scans and maintain your digital security.

Spyware

Spyware is a form of malware that collects information, such as credit cards, Social Security numbers and passwords, off your computer. Even if spyware is not being used for theft, spammers and marketers may leverage it to learn more about your browsing habits in unethical ways. Anti-spyware programs are available online and often come packaged with antivirus tools.

Phishing

Phishing involves fake emails or websites designed to take advantage of users who are not careful with their browsing habits. These email messages or sites typically try to trick you into entering your personal information or passwords. Spam filters should block most phishing attempts that come via email, but it’s best to make sure everyone in your workplace knows not to open suspicious-looking emails—just in case a few get through.

Browser security has also been updated to the point to which most of today’s web browsers are able to catch suspicious sites and block users from accessing them.

Trojans 

Trojans, bots, key-loggers and a variety of other applications are designed to appear harmless or even useful, prompting users into downloading and opening them. However, they carry various forms of malware that could be damaging to your computer and your overall data security. Make sure you have policies in place regarding the files your employees may download.

Cybersecurity has become one of the most pressing issues for modern businesses. Be sure to keep tabs on your company’s processes and ensure you’re not jeopardizing the data and information of you, your employees or your customers.

 

BoltNagi is a well-established and widely respected business and corporate law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Legislature Approves Bill that Would Eliminate Customs Duties in US Virgin Islands

Posted in Government Relations

The Legislature of the Virgin Islands recently approved Bill No. 31-0398, a new bill eliminating customs duties in the Territory. These duties generate approximately $12 million every year, but for more than 10 years, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has taken almost all of it to cover the costs of collecting it. As a result, the duties reached the point where negligible funds actually received by the U.S. Virgin Islands were not worth the trouble and cost focused on collecting them.

The Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands It defines the powers of the Territory and its authority to take up to 6 percent duties on any goods brought from other lands into the Territory. U.S. Customs and Border Protection had taken a portion of the duties to cover its costs, but that portion became significantly larger—almost the entire value of the funds—after the establishment of the federal Department of Homeland Security in 2003.

Previous solutions proved ineffective

In December 2014, the administration of Governor John deJongh, Jr. signed an agreement with the stated goal of resolving this problem. At the time, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agreed it would fund pre-departure clearance for air passengers with federal funds and would work to limit reimbursement from these local customs duties. This agreement also called for greater transparency in reporting the funds that were collected, why they would be retained and how they would be used.

Reports from various U.S. Virgin Islands officials revealed that U.S. Customs and Border Protection had essentially ignored the agreement from the beginning, only remitting $1 million since it was signed. CBP kept more than 90 percent of all the funds earned in customs duties in 2015 and has not returned any 2016 funds, according to US Virgin Islands  Finance Commissioner Valdamier Collens.

The original purpose of the customs duties was to provide additional funding to the territory. With how little money was actually coming back to the US Virgin Islands  under the arrangement, the Government of the Virgin Islands decided to put an end to the practice altogether.

The decision to remove the customs duties was not met without resistance. The St. Croix Chamber of Commerce, for example, did not agree with the changes. In a written statement, it said “the federal government could easily refuse to fund these services and remove the convenience of local customs clearance.” However, the majority of elected officials who passed the amended bill were of the mindset that money going to CBP should come from federal funding—not local money.

The passage of Bill No. 31-0398 could have an impact on businesses throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands. It will be interesting to see if upon approval of Governor Kenneth E. Mapp, it will open up any new opportunities for commerce in the Territory in the years to come.

 

BoltNagi is a respected and established business and corporate law firm proudly serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Federal Judge Blocks FLSA Overtime Rule Implementation

Posted in Labor & Employment

Over the past year, business owners across the United States have been trying to prepare for December 1, when new Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime rule changes were set to go into effect.

However, in late November, Judge Amos Mazzant of the U.S. District Court issued a ruling blocking the implementation of the rule, primarily due to the way it treated white-collar exemptions within the law as it was originally written. According to the court, Congress intended these white-collar exemptions to turn on an employee’s performance and conduct on the job—and not his or her salary. The judge’s ruling essentially states that by doubling the salary threshold for guaranteed overtime pay, the U.S. Department of Labor operated outside its jurisdiction.

It is important to note that this injunction is not permanent and is only meant to delay the rule until the courts can make a “merits determination.” While a permanent injunction is anything but a given at this point, the fact that a federal judge even implemented a preliminary injunction indicates there’s at least a chance the rule could be overturned.

With a change of administration coming to Washington, D.C., this also means President-Elect Donald Trump and his Secretary of Labor will have a lot of say as to whether the Department of Labor will continue to pursue the new overtime regulations under the FLSA.

What impact will this injunction have on businesses?

Small businesses across the country widely supported the ruling by the federal judge, as did the National Association for the Self-Employed. Many believe that had the DOL succeeded in implementing the change, there would have negatively impacted small businesses. Employers suddenly would have been forced to eliminate positions, cut back hours or change salaried workers to hourly.

Some small business owners had asked for specific exemptions to be put into place for smaller organizations so they would better be able to adjust to the changes. Many businesses had not yet shared any information about these rule changes to their employees, which would have meant a large number of workers would have been suddenly surprised by a change in their payment had they not been following along.

One study by ComplyRight revealed that out of nearly 800 owners of very small businesses (under 20 salaried employees) polled, about 82 percent had not shared information with employees regarding the new law. This would suggest employers either did not know how they were going to make the changes within their business or were altogether unaware the changes were coming.

It will be important for businesses owners in the U.S. Virgin Islands and beyond to stay up to date on this issue as it develops. If you have any questions about how the potential overtime rule change could impact your company, meet with a knowledgeable employment law attorney.

 

Ravinder S. Nagi is Assistant Managing Attorney and Chair of the Litigation Practice Group at BoltNagi, an established and well-respected civil litigation law firm serving individuals, businesses and organizations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

How to Create a Strong IP Indemnity Clause

Posted in Corporate & Financial Services, Labor & Employment

Every product you sell as a manufacturer is subject to the Uniform Commercial Code. This law requires you to guarantee to your customers that your products are free of infringement claims made by other manufacturers.

You may already have customer contracts in place with even more stringent conditions, such as providing legal defenses to customers or reimbursing them for any costs that could be imposed on them as a result of a lawsuit. These costs may quickly mount to staggering figures, so businesses need a way to mitigate the risk. The best means of accomplishing this is negotiating an indemnity clause with your customers.

Indemnity is kind of like an insurance policy — as it protects the “indemnitee” from certain covered losses. A typical agreement involves an “indemnitor” promising to protect the indemnitee from certain losses sustained as a result of a specific act or omission. Practically speaking, this would involve a manufacturer or seller of a product agreeing to cover the buyer for specific losses sustained in third-party patent or trademark infringement claims.

Considerations as you begin the process

Your first step in creating such a clause is to clearly define the parties and the scope of claims your agreement will cover. Typically, the agreement will be between a seller or licensor and a buyer or licensee. You should also consider whether you will cover officers, affiliates, subsidiaries and other parties in the agreement. If your transaction also allows resale or sublicensing, you will need to consider whether those third parties will also be protected (or “indemnified”).

Once you have set all of the ground rules, you should clearly identify each party’s obligations. In most situations, an indemnity provision would indicate that the seller will indemnify, defend and hold the buyer harmless from any losses associated with the covered claims.

There’s a variety of other considerations that could also impact the scope of your coverage and your liability. These include limitations of use, limitations on liability, geographic limitations, multiple indemnitors, pre-existing threats and remedial measures. Your corporate planning attorney can work with you to pinpoint any such factors that could have an impact on your indemnity agreement with your buyer or licensee.

Finally, you should be sure to clearly identify the procedures that must be followed to initiate and resolve any claims that occur. These procedures include the amount of notice time required to file a claim, who is the controlling party, the parties that will have authority to settle, the obligations each party has to cooperate and the amount of time the seller has to provide reimbursement.

 

Attorney Steven K. Hardy is an Associate in the Corporate, Tax and Estate Planning Practice Group at BoltNagi, PC, a well-established and respected intellectual property law firm serving individuals, businesses and organizations throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Tax Deductions Every Small Business Owner Should Know

Posted in Labor & Employment

Tax deductions are important tools for small business owners that can help them maintain efficient operations while reducing their tax obligations. The more deductions you can take, the less income the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can tax you on, which means greater savings and more capabilities to grow your company.

The following are a few common tax deductions of which every small business owner in the United States and its territories should be aware:

  • Vehicle expenses: If you regularly use your motor vehicle for business, or your company has its own car, you may deduct a portion of the costs associated with using it. There are two different methods for doing so. The first is the actual expense method, where you track and deduct every business-related expense associated with your vehicle. The other is the standard mileage rate method, in which you deduct a certain amount of money for every mile driven, plus all tolls and parking fees related to business.
  • Traveling: Whenever you travel for business reasons, you may deduct many of the expenses, including plane fare, car costs, taxis, meals, lodging, cleaning clothes, phone calls, tips and taxes. As long as business is the primary purpose of the trip, these costs are deductible. However, if you take family members along, only your expenses may be deducted, as only you are there for business purposes.
  • Business formation expenses: The cost of actually starting up a business are considered capital expenses. You are allowed to deduct $5,000 of these expenses in your first year of business. Remainders must be deducted equally over the course of the next 15 years.
  • Books and professional fees: Business books for your finances are fully deductible as business expenses. You may also typically deduct fees you pay to attorneys, consultants, tax professionals and accountants in the year those expenses were incurred. But if the work they performed was related to future years, those expenses may need to be deducted over the amount of years in which you expect to benefit from those services.
  • Business entertaining: If you pay to entertain current or prospective customers or colleagues, you may deduct 50 percent of those costs, as long as they meet certain stipulations. The entertaining must be directly related to business, with business discussed at the event—or it must be somehow associated with your business. The entertainment must also take place immediately before or after business discussions.
  • Interest: If you finance purchase for your business, all interest incurred is completely tax deductible. This is also true if you take out a personal loan, but use its proceeds for business purposes.

Navigating the complexities of the IRS and U.S. and territorial tax law can be complicated. Be sure to meet with a skilled business planning attorney to make sure you are getting the most out of your deductions.

 

Attorney Adam Marinelli is an Associate in the Corporate, Tax and Estate Planning Tax Group at BoltNagi, a respected and well-established business law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.