Littler Global Guide - Puerto Rico - Q3 2020

Browse through brief employment and labor law updates from around the globe. Contact a Littler attorney for more information or view our global locations.

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Puerto Rico Enacts Law on Workplace Harassment

New Legislation Enacted

Authors: Anabel Rodríguez-Alonso, Capital Member and Alberto Tabales-Maldonado, Associate – Schuster Aguiló LLC | Littler

On August 7, 2020, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Hon. Wanda Vázquez Garced, signed into law the “Act to Prohibit and Prevent Workplace Harassment in Puerto Rico,” previously known as House Bill No. 306. The primary purpose of the Act is to prohibit and prevent abusive conduct against employees in the workplace that affects worker performance, alters workplace peace, and threatens the dignity of employees. The Act provides a non-exhaustive list of conduct that can be considered workplace harassment, such as: injurious, defamatory or damaging expressions about the person, with the use of profanity; hostile and humiliating comments about an individual’s professional incompetence in the presence of co-workers; public comments or ridicule directed at the employee about physical appearance or dress; among other examples.

Employers will be held liable for the actions of their supervisors or other employees for conduct that is considered workplace harassment, if they knew of the harassment taking place and did nothing about it. On the other hand, if the employer can establish that it took immediate and appropriate action to remedy and stop the workplace harassment, then the employer will not be held liable. The Act requires that employers adopt and implement internal rules and policies to eliminate or reduce the occurrence of workplace harassment, establish the procedure to investigate claims of workplace harassment, and impose sanctions against those who violate these policies.

New Law Extends Maternity Leave to Mothers Adopting Children Ages Six and Older

New Legislation Enacted

Author: Anabel Rodríguez-Alonso, Capital Member – Schuster Aguiló LLC | Littler

On August 8, 2020, Puerto Rico Governor Hon. Wanda Vázquez Garced signed into law House Bill No. 2424 (Bill No. 2424), to amend the Puerto Rico Working Mothers Protection Act, otherwise known as Act 3 of March 13, 1942 (Act No. 3-1942). The purpose of Bill No. 2424 is to extend the right to maternity leave to working mothers who adopt children six years of age and older. Pursuant to Act No. 54 of March 10, 2000, which amended the Working Mothers Act, female employees were entitled to adoption leave only if they adopted a child age five or younger who was not yet enrolled in school. Under the previous amendment, employees were entitled to the same eight-week maternity leave benefit granted to birth mothers. The new law amends Section 2 of Act No. 3-1942 to add that working mothers who adopt children six years of age or older will be entitled to up to five weeks of maternity leave.

New Electoral Code Creates Two Hours of Paid Voting Leave

New Legislation Enacted

Authors: Erika Berríos-Berríos, Capital Member and Ana B. Rosado Frontanés, Capital Member – Schuster Aguiló LLC | Littler

On June 20, 2020, Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez signed into law Puerto Rico’s new Electoral Code, Act No. 58 of June 20, 2020 (Act No. 54-2020). The Electoral Code, among other things, provides that all public- and private-sector employees who are registered voters, scheduled to work on a voting date, and whose schedules coincide with the opening hours of the polling places, have a right to request the opportunity to vote by mail or in a voting center that allows individuals to vote in advance. Employees who cannot anticipate their work schedule on a voting date prior to the deadline to request such voting in advance will be entitled to a two-hour paid leave during the workday to vote. Under the Electoral Code, “voting” includes primaries and other electoral events.

Supreme Court of Puerto Rico Rules “Ex-Offender” Is Not a Protected Category

Precedential Decision by Judiciary or Regulatory Agency

Author: Anabel Rodríguez-Alonso, Capital Member – Schuster Aguiló LLC | Littler

In Garib Bazain v. Hospital Espanol Auxilio Mutuo de Puerto Rico, 2020 TSPR 69, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico considered whether a person's prior conviction is a protected classification under the constitutional clause prohibiting discrimination based on social status. In a 5-3 decision issued on July 27, 2020, the Court ruled that the status of ex-offender is not a protected category under the Constitution or under Puerto Rico’s general antidiscrimination statute (Act. No. 100 of June 30, 1959) (Act 100).

Updated Risk Classification Manual with Important Modifications

New Regulation or Official Guidance

Authors: José J. Santiago, Special Counsel and Sashmarie Z. Rivera-López, Associate – Schuster Aguiló LLC | Littler

On July 1, 2020, the Puerto Rico State Insurance Fund Corporation (SIF) announced the automatic extension of the deadline for employers to file the Payroll Statement for fiscal year 2020-2021, from July 20 to August 4, 2020. The SIF is the government agency that provides workers’ compensation benefits in Puerto Rico. The SIF also published the Risk Classification Manual (Manual) applicable for this payroll year, which includes significant modifications that are of particular interest to those employers that plan to have employees telework during this policy year.

Acknowledging that remote work will now be the “new normal” for most employees, the SIF modified approximately 20 risk classifications to cover teleworking. Pursuant to the current Manual, auditors, accountants, lawyers, system analysts and the office personnel identified in the description of multiple classifications are covered, even when working remotely, without requiring the employee to consider remote work as an additional risk on its Payroll Statement. Nevertheless, the employer will need to report to the SIF those employees who will be working remotely. On the other hand, if the employer has employees teleworking whose risk classifications do not contemplate remote work as part of their risk classification description, then the employer must consider including remote work as an additional risk in its policy.

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.