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Legal Memorandum: VI Arbitration Statute and Employment Agreements

Issue: Does the Virgin Islands statute relating to arbitration of employment disputes apply to employment relationships entered into before the effective date of the statute?

Area of Law: Alternative Dispute Resolution, Employee Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Employment agreement; Statute relating to arbitration; Effective date
Jurisdiction: Federal, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: 24 V.I.C. § 74a;
Date: 11/01/2004

The statute relating to arbitration of employment agreements, 24 V.I.C. § 74a, was effective September 18, 2002.  When a statute is procedural, meaning “it simply prescribes the method of enforcement of . . . rights,” it generally applies to litigation from its effective date as well as claims pending at the time of its enactment.  Collum v. Harrington, 37 V.I. 3, 5-6 (Terr. Ct. 1997) (bond procedure to be followed by a plaintiff endeavouring to maintaining a lawsuit in the Virgin Islands is procedural).  Accord Gov’t of the V.I. ex rel. Simanca v. Proctor, 39 V.I. 28, 33 (Terr. Ct. 1998) (applying statute retroactively where no substantive rights would be altered by doing so).  Section 74a merely sets forth a procedure by which arbitration may be used to settle a dispute in the Virgin Islands.  Thus, it applies even to actions pending at the time of its enactment.

Second, whether procedural or substantive, a statute affecting claims is effective at a minimum to claims that arise after its enactment.  V.I. Maritime Serv., Inc. v. Puerto Rico Maritime Shipping Auth., 37 V.I. 193, 205 (D.V.I. 1997).  The date the parties entered into the contract from which the claim arose is an irrelevant date for purposes of determining the statute’s effective date.  See Nickeo v. V.I. Tel. Corp., 31 V.I. 351 (3d Cir. 1994) (§ 1981 claim was pending when statute was passed such that § 1981 did not apply).  

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