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.
A new law in Puerto Rico provides several pay and anti-discrimination protections for athletes on account of their pregnancies. A separate sports-related employment law extends leave protections for eligible athletes, coaches and specialized personnel who are absent from their jobs to represent Puerto Rico in official sports competitions. The following summarizes these two laws.
Puerto Rico Athlete Mother Protection Act (Act 117-2023)
On October 4, 2023, Puerto Rico Governor Hon. Pedro R. Pierluisi signed into law the Puerto Rico Athlete Mothers Protection Act, Act 117 of October 4, 2023 (“Act 117-2023”) with the purpose of extending the rights of working mothers, in this case mothers who are athletes. This Act will enter into force as of December 4, 2023.
Act 117-2023 provides the following protections: (1) prohibits gender discrimination by any sports federation, sports league, team, or sports club that penalizes an athlete for being pregnant, either through dismissal without compensation, reduction of compensation or any other manifestation of discriminatory treatment; (2) prohibits clauses in any sports participation contract that penalize the athlete for being pregnant; (3) if the athlete has to be replaced during the season due to pregnancy, she will be guaranteed 45% of the total contract or the remainder that has not been paid (the parties may agree on another percentage, if it is not less than 25% of the base salary and it is accompanied by some other benefit); (4) if a reserve player becomes pregnant during the offseason, she will be guaranteed at least 35% of the base salary contracted in the previous season (the parties may agree on another percentage, if it is not less than 15% of the base salary and is accompanied by some other benefit).
In addition, Act 117-2023 reiterates strict compliance with the Act to Regulate the Breastfeeding or Breast Milk Extraction Period, Act 427-2000, so that any sports facility or place of practice must have a space for breastfeeding or extracting breast milk, following the requirements of Article 3 of Act 427-2000. In addition, under no circumstances may the athlete receive unequal or discriminatory treatment because she is breastfeeding her child or extracting breast milk during the period required for it.
Any person, natural or legal, who fails to comply with any of the provisions of this Act shall be fined not less than $15,000. Every athlete mother shall have the right to a cause of action based on gender discrimination. It should be noted that the compensation for the cause of action will be three times the contracted base salary of the athlete. If the matter involves a reserve player out of season, the fine will be computed using the base salary of the previous season. Additionally, claimants will be entitled to expenses, costs and attorneys’ fees of no less than $5,000.
Special Sports Leave Act, Act 49 of June 27, 1987, as amended (Act 49-1987)
On a related topic, we remind employers that Act 49-1987 was established to create a special sports leave so that any public or private employee who is duly accredited as an athlete by the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee to represent Puerto Rico globally can enjoy such leave without loss of pay. Before Act 49-1987 was amended, the sports leave was up to 30 workings days per year, and eligible athletes, coaches, and specialized personnel could be absent from their jobs, without loss of seniority or efficiency rating, during the period in which they were participating in said competitions up to a maximum of 45 working days if they had other leaves available such as vacation leave.
Act 19 of May 6, 2022 (“Act 19-2022”) amended Article 2 of Act 49-1987. The 30 working days cumulative duration of sports leave remains the same, but some definitions and the maximum amount of working days that can be taken for sports-related reasons per year changed. Specifically, eligible athletes, coaches and specialized personnel may be absent from their jobs, without loss of seniority or efficiency rating, during the period in which they are participating in said competitions up to a maximum of 90 working days per year to be used during the training period and participation in the competition, if they have accumulated such days off under sports leave, vacation time, and in the cases that apply, compensatory time off.