Business owners in the U.S. Virgin Islands and throughout the United States must have a thorough understanding of wage and time laws and regulations. Below are some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive on this issue.
Do I have to provide family and medical leave as a small business owner?
The answer to this question depends on the size of your business. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave in some circumstances, and up to 26 weeks of leave to care for family members injured in military service. However, these rules only apply to companies with more than 50 employees who work within a 75-mile radius. If your company does not meet these conditions, you do not have to provide FMLA leave.
How much notice am I allowed to require of employees seeking FMLA leave?
This depends on the reason the employee is seeking leave. If employees know far in advance of the reason for their leave, a minimum of 30 days’ notice is required. An example of this type of case would be a surgery scheduled well in advance.
However, if the employee’s reason for seeking leave is an emergency, the employee only needs to provide as much notice as is reasonably practical given the circumstances.
Am I required to allow paternity leave to male employees?
If your business is subject to the rules of the FMLA and the employee is eligible to take leave, you must allow up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a newborn child. This leave is unpaid and must be taken within the first year of the birth or adoption of the child.
Typically, employers don’t have to provide paid leave to either parent. However, if you offer paid leave to mothers, you must offer the same benefit to fathers. Otherwise, you could face a discrimination lawsuit. To that end, the policy for companies that offer paid leave is to provide what’s called “parental leave,” rather than maternity or paternity leave.
Am I required to give employees time off to fulfill certain civic duties?
A significant number of states and territories require employers to provide several hours of paid leave to allow employees to vote. No matter what, you cannot punish employees for taking time off to vote.
You do not have to pay employees for time taken off for jury duty, but again, you may not fire, demote or discipline any employee for being called in to jury duty. If you do, the employee could sue you for lost wages.
Finally, federal law requires employers to allow employees to take a maximum of five years off for military service and to take leave to fulfill various military duties.
For more information and guidance on your responsibilities as an employer regarding wages and leave, meet with a skilled U.S. Virgin Islands labor law attorney.
Ravinder S. Nagi is a shareholder and the Assistant Managing Attorney for BoltNagi. He is the chair of BoltNagi’s Litigation Department and the Labor and Employment Practice Group. He has represented numerous private and public companies in complex labor and employment cases of all types.