Pursuant to the Territories’ efforts to combat the potential spread and impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), on March 13, the Hon. Governor Bryan declared a State of Emergency Executive Order and authorized DLCA to issue a Price Freeze on all items and goods in the Territory, and subsequently issued a Supplemental Executive Order on March 23 Executive Order in which mass gatherings were prohibited, hotels and Air BnB’s and other non-essential businesses ceased operation, schools were closed and a stay at home order was put into effect, bars were closed and restaurants could only offer takeout and delivery. The March 23rd order also suspended enforcement of landlord-tenant actions for the recovery of real property, demands for rent, and forcible entry and detainer.
On March 30th, the Governor issued a Third Supplemental Executive Order stating that the State of Emergency in the territory will extend until May 12, 2020; the Stay-at-Home Order shall continue until April 30, 2020; School closures will continue until April 30, 2020; and clarifying certain portions of previous executive orders. Executive Order Additionally, the Governor suspended the enforcement of the VI Plant Closing Act, thus allowing for the closure of businesses or implementing mass layoffs of 25 or more without notice or severance payments to affected employees. This suspension continues for 120 days. The federal WARN Act may still apply to certain VI employers, but most likely the natural disaster and unforeseeable business circumstances exemptions created by COVID-19 will apply and allow employers to bypass the WARN Act.
If you have any further questions about the Executive Orders, the suspension of the VI Plant Closing Act, or possible applicability of the WARN Act, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.