Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
The Working Women’s Bill of Rights
New Legislation Enacted
Authors: Elizabeth Pérez-Lleras, Capital Member and Alberto Tabales-Maldonado, Associate – Littler Puerto Rico
On January 3, 2020, Puerto Rico enacted the Working Women’s Bill of Rights (Law No. 9-2020). While it was enacted for informational purposes and does not create any new substantive rights, the law centralizes a nonexhaustive list of previously established rights for working women in the public and private sectors and requires all governmental agencies, public corporations, municipalities and private employers to publish notices of the law in places accessible to all employees and visitors.
Supreme Court: Plaintiffs Bear Burden of Proof for Constructive Discharge Claims
Precedential Decision by Judiciary or Regulatory Agency
Authors: Erika Berríos Berríos, Capital Member and María Elisa Echenique Arana, Associate – Littler Puerto Rico
Constructive discharge is a form of wrongful termination under Act 80, known as the Puerto Rico Unjust Dismissal statute. Unlike traditional wrongful termination cases, plaintiffs alleging constructive discharge bear the burden of proof to establish that the employer forced them to resign. The Puerto Rico Supreme Court recently clarified that because this heightened burden starts at the pleadings stage, plaintiffs must assert sufficient facts in their complaint to establish the elements of the claim and provide employers sufficient notice of the cause of action, so they can prepare an adequate defense.
Puerto Rico Governor Signs New Civil Code
New Regulation or Official Guidance
Authors: Shiara L. Diloné Fernández, Capital Member and Ana B. Rosado Frontanés, Member – Littler Puerto Rico
On June 1, 2020, Puerto Rico enacted a new Civil Code. Legislative guidance is expected in the coming days or weeks. Among its most notable changes, the new Civil Code substantially reduces the statute of limitations of personal claims for which no special term was established (which includes claims for breach contract) from 15 years to four years. It also incorporates the concept of punitive damages and created a new section titled: “Revision of Contracts,” which establishes, among others, the concept of “disproportionate economic advantage injury.” Pursuant to the new Code, a person could demand the annulment or revision of an onerous contract when one of the parties, taking advantage of the need, inexperience, cultural condition, economic dependency or advanced age of the other, gets a disproportionate and unjustified economic advantage.
COVID-19 Designated as a Work-Related Condition for Workers’ Compensation
New Regulation or Official Guidance
Authors: Anabel Rodríguez Alonso, Capital Member and Sashmarie Rivera López, Associate – Littler Puerto Rico
On June 1, 2020, Puerto Rico amended the Workers' Accident Compensation Act to cover certain employees who get infected with COVID-19 while performing their duties. Due to the pandemic, coverage has been extended to state, municipal, private or public sector employees who get infected with COVID-19 during the performance of their duties as doctors, nurses, paramedics or any other health professional in medical offices, hospitals, diagnostic and treatment centers or any other medical facility. This protection is also extended to laboratory employees, caregivers at senior centers, police, firefighters, state and municipal rescue and emergency personnel, and other personnel that have been particularly exposed to COVID-19 as a result of the risks associated with their duties. Even if an employee does not work in one of the above job categories, they may be eligible if able to establish that the virus infection occurred while performing the tasks inherent to employment.
Force Majeure Defense Amidst Breach of Contract Claims in the COVID-19 Age
Authors: Lourdes Hernández Venegas, Capital Member and Andrés Gorbea Del Valle, Associate – Littler Puerto Rico
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to wreak havoc on industries and businesses around the world, disputes regarding breaches of contractual obligations are likely to increase. Therefore, companies should remain cognizant that a “force majeure” defense may be available to defend against such claims. Under Puerto Rico law, a party may be relieved from contractual obligations if unforeseeable circumstances beyond the party’s control prevent or delay the party from fulfilling its contractual obligations, even when the events were foreseeable but inevitable. Importantly, however, the party invoking this defense must show that there were no alternative means to comply with the contractual obligations and increased costs, alone, is not enough to establish the defense.