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.
On September 19, 2014, Governor Alejandro García Padilla signed into law an amendment to the Puerto Rico Minimum Wage, Vacation, and Sick Leave Act (the “Act”) to include a subsection (c) to Article 9, imposing new civil penalties on employers for violations of the Act. The amendment specifically provides that:
…any person who as an employer or an administrator, official, agent, employee or person in charge of a firm, partnership or corporation or other person or persons, violates or refuses to comply or is reticent in complying with any provision of this Act, or any decree or regulation in force that has been validated by the provisions of this Act, shall incur civil liability for an amount equal to twice the amount of damages that the employer’s actions caused the employee. In cases where the adjudicator of the dispute cannot determine the amount of damage caused to the employee, it may, at its discretion, impose a monetary penalty of no less five hundred dollars ($500.00) nor more than three thousand dollars ($3,000.00).
In justifying this amendment, the Legislature specifically noted that the Act is aimed at “protect[ing] the right to vacation leave for workers in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico… So much so that the Legislative Assembly, on several occasions within the provisions regarding vacations, impose requirements that the fractioning, use, and partial payment of vacation leave should only be done in an agreement between the employer and the employee.” The Legislative Assembly expressed concern that these requirements were being routinely disregarded by employers.
Prior to the amendment, employers found in violation of the Act's provisions were subject to criminal sanctions. Such sanctions, however, were rarely, if ever, imposed. Now, employers charged with violations could face both criminal and civil penalties and fines.
The amendment also grants jurisdiction to the Office of Mediation and Adjudications (“OMA”) of the Puerto Rico Department of Labor to impose the new civil penalties under the Act. This amendment became effective immediately upon the Governor’s signature.