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Legal Memorandum: Motion to Compel Arbitration

Issue: Can a motion to compel arbitration withstand a failure to comply with V.I.C.  74a?

Area of Law: Alternative Dispute Resolution, Employee Law
Keywords: Motion to compel arbitration; V.I.C. 74a compliance
Jurisdiction: Federal, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 431 F.3d 348; 411 F.3d 1289; 242 F. Supp. 2d 877; 352 F. Supp. 2d 903; 517 U.S. 681
Cited Statutes: 24 V.I.C. § 74a (2004); 24 V.I.C. § 74a(b)
Date: 08/01/2008

In 2002, the Virgin Islands Legislature added § 74a to Title 24 of the V.I. Code.  Section 74a provides:

§ 74a   Arbitration

(a)        Notwithstanding an employment contract that provides for the use of arbitration to resolve a controversy arising out of or relating to the employment relationship, arbitration may be used to settle such a dispute only if:

(1)        the employer or employee submits a written request after the dispute arises to the other party to use arbitration; and

 

(2)        the other party consents in writing not later than sixty (60) days after the receipt of the request to use arbitration.

(b)        An employer subject to this chapter may not require an employee to arbitrate a dispute as a condition of employment.

24 V.I.C. § 74a (2004) (emphasis added).

The plain reading of subpart (a) requires a party wishing to initiate arbitration to submit a written request to the other party after the dispute arises.  If the other party refuses to consent, the claims are not subject to arbitration. 

Subpart (b) was enacted out of concern for the plight of unemployed men and women seeking employment in the Virgin Islands, in order to make certain that overreaching prospective employers would not take advantage of those desperate for work.  To require signing an arbitration agreement as a condition of employment constitutes economic coercion.  The employee in such a situation is forced to give up his or her right […]

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