March 6, 2009 — Suddenly idled employees of the Stanford Financial Group on St. Croix got a little good news when Labor Commissioner Albert Bryan Jr. told a Senate committee Friday that the closure of the company's St. Croix offices falls under the provisions of the territory's Closed Plant Act.
The financial giant was thrown into a tailspin last month when the federal Securities and Exchange Commission filed a criminal complaint against the company's billionaire owner, Allan Stanford, alleging fraud at the Antigua-based Stanford International Bank. The complaint triggered the freezing of all company-related assets and office closure on St. Croix and elsewhere. Stanford is reported to be the subject of SEC and FBI investigations.
More than three dozen Stanford employees working on St. Croix suddenly found themselves locked out of their offices and without paychecks. (See: "St. Croix Projects Uncertain as Feds File Charges Against Stanford.") Because all assets have been frozen while the company is in receivership, they do not even have access to their 401(k) retirement accounts.
Bryan, appearing Friday before the Senate Committee on Labor and Agriculture, told the senators that the circumstances made the plant closure act applicable.
Under the V.I. Closed Plant Law, employers are required to give 90 days notice of any closure, and to pay employees one week of severance pay for each year of employment. Bryan said the company is also obligated to pay 90 days of salary in lieu of the notice.
The employees are also eligible for unemployment benefits, he added, assuming the qualify by having worked for four previous quarters.
Though the plant-closure law is applicable, it doesn't mean the employees will get checks right away. Bryan said he has notified the federally appointed receivers of the claim, along with their claim for unpaid back wages, but it is not known how soon any payments will be forthcoming.
Earlier this week the Department of Labor held a rapid-response workshop to help them sign up for unemployment benefits and answer other questions. (See: "Labor Department Reaches Out to Jobless Stanford Employees.")
The department's Rapid Response Workshops are designed for mass layoffs or plant closings, to provide workers who were severed from their places of employment with vital information about the various services available to them to help in the transition.
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