July 21,2008 — Employee's and employer's rights and the specific rules and regulations protecting them were the topic at a V.I. Department of Labor (DOL) workshop Monday. Those rules were made clearer to attendees concerning topics such as discriminatory practices in hiring and equal pay.
The V.I. Department of Labor's Division of Labor Relations, along with the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, held a workshop on federal labor laws Monday at Gertrude's Restaurant on St. Croix.
Almost 40 people from the private and public sectors attended the workshop.
Stedman Hodge, from the Labor Relations Compliance division at the DOL, said there are number of local businesses unaware of the rules and rights of the employer and employee.
According to Commissioner of Labor Albert Bryan Jr., the Department of Labor has embarked on a public education campaign designed to inform the public about the many programs and services that it provides, as well as the laws that govern them. By keeping employers, employees, and all other stakeholders informed, he said, his department hopes to reduce the incidence of disharmony, disparity and dissension in the workplace, and to protect the rights of both the employer and the employee.
Public service announcements by Deputy Commissioner of Labor Glen Smith, public forums and free workshops that businesses can attend are how the DOL is trying to keep the business community informed.
"We are getting updated information to give more service to clients," said Lavern Marsh-Cole, labor relations specialist at the department.
William Sanchez, director of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) local office in San Juan, discussed during a power point presentation the laws enforced by the EEOC on discrimination because of race, color, sex, religion, or national origin.
He enlightened people about the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which is limited to gender-based differences in wages. The act prohibits discrimination in wages for men and women performing equal work under the same conditions in the same establishment.
He also brought up the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 for people age 40 and over who have been passed over for raises, promotions and such.
The complaint charge procedure and mediation were also outlined by Sanchez.
Marta M. Figueroa, regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, discussed procedures taken when labor relation cases come before the NLRB. She said 95 percent of cases are resolved at the local board level and appeals go on to Washington, D.C.
"Final remedies can go on for years and in the meantime people need to get back to work," said Figueroa. She said this is when an injunction at district court allows people to go back to work while the case is open.
Hernan Rivera, district director of Federal Contract Compliance from the New York office, told the group any company that has a contract with the federal government needs to follow the laws to protect workers against discrimination with affirmative action guided by specific rules and regulations.
"We want to encourage harmonious relations in the workplace," said Abdul Ali, president of the supervisors union and administrator of adult services at the Department of Labor. "We want the workforce of the Virgin Islands to be the envy of all parts of the world."
Smith said with the workshop he hopes to have educated both sides and create a positive working environment for all workers of the territory.
Attending the workshop were representatives from Collective Bargaining, Housing and Finance, Government Employees Retirement Service, Waste Management, Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital, Plaza Extra and more.
More information on rules and regulations regarding workplace discrimination can be found at the V.I. Labor website and the U.S. Labor Department.
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