The United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) recently paid a visit to St. Croix and St. Thomas to investigate some reported wage issues, as well as to offer compliance assistance with regard to recovery efforts still ongoing after Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

According to a press release issued by the Department of Labor, federal agents were reviewing local employers’ compliance with the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA), the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act (CHWSSA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA). Particular issues they were investigating included missed payroll, unpaid work hours and failure to provide required fringe benefits and wages under federal construction and service contracts.

There had been some concerns that employees who were working on hurricane recovery efforts were not receiving the wages and benefits they had earned and that were, by rights, theirs to be compensated with. The Department of Labor also wanted to ensure all employers in the territory were competing on a “level playing field.”

Any employees or employers in need of compliance information, wish to file a complaint or intend to schedule a meeting with a representative from the WHD can contract the Caribbean office of the WHD at 787-775-1947 or 1-866-4-USWAGE, or get in touch online. Any conversations had with these representatives, regardless of medium used, are strictly confidential.

DOL recovers pay for 13 employees

The investigation did yield some tangle results—the WHD forced one construction contractor based in Alabama, KW Construction Work, Inc., to pay out nearly $15,000 to 13 Texas-based employees who were stranded without pay and transportation in the U.S. Virgin Islands after doing some hurricane recovery work.

According to the Caribbean District Office of the WHD, the contractor committed several violations of the FLSA, including failure to pay minimum wage, failure to pay overtime, failure to keep records of how many hours the employees were working and misclassification of employees as independent contractors.

WHD officials stated the department received a back wage compliance agreement and payment from the company within just 24 hours. The employer also arranged for transportation that would return the employees to Texas within several days.

There are likely more employees in the U.S. Virgin Islands being affected by these kinds of issues. While recovery efforts are winding down in comparison to where they were earlier this year, there are still many people temporarily in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and if they do not get the compensation or transportation they were promised, they could find themselves in difficult financial situations.

For more information about the work being done by the WHD in the U.S. Virgin Islands, contact an employment law attorney in the territory.

Ravinder S. Nagi is Assistant Managing Attorney and Chair of the Labor and Employment Practice Group at BoltNagi PC, a full service business law firm serving the U.S. Virgin Islands.