In August of 2022, the Puerto Rico Office for Women’s Advocacy (Oficina de la Procuradora de las Mujeres) made headlines when it fined a political party in Puerto Rico in the amount of $30,000, in connection with a sexual and workplace harassment claim. Among other findings, the Office for Women’s Advocacy determined that the political organization in question had failed to have protocols and procedures to handle sexual harassment claims.
The above was certainly one of the triggers for the government to amend Law No. 17 of April 22, 1988, better known as the Law to Prohibit Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Accordingly, On September 27, 2022, Law No. 82 was approved and went into effect immediately.
The major changes introduced by Law No. 82-2022 can be summarized as follows:
1. The protection against sexual harassment is extended to paid or unpaid interns.
2. Employers must adopt a protocol to handle sexual harassment situations in the workplace.
3. Both the Office for Women’s Advocacy and the Puerto Rico Department of Labor will provide technical assistance for the drafting and implementation of this protocol.
The protocol required under Law No. 82-2022 must include, among other measures, the following:
1. A declaration to the effect that sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal.
2. Legal basis.
3. A declaration of purpose to prevent, discourage, and to avoid sexual harassment, as well as a zero- tolerance policy.
5. Designation of those in charge of implementing the protocol, a description of the process to present complaints, and the name and contact information of those receiving complaints.
6. Who can present a complaint and options to do it verbally, in writing, or anonymously.
7. Measures to maintain confidentiality.
8. Antiretaliation provisions.
9. Examples of prohibited conduct.
10. Provisional measures to protect claimants and victims.
11. Other legal remedies available and forums for victims, as well as instructions to contact administrative agencies such as the EEOC, the Puerto Rico Department of Labor, and the Office for Women’s Advocacy.
12. A complaint form to denounce incidents of sexual harassment.
Finally, both the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and the Office for Women’s Advocacy will create an online site with information related to sexual harassment in the workplace and to file online complaints.
The labor and employment law team of AMG will keep all our clients and friends updated and well informed of all the latest developments.
This Court’s decision is not final yet. According to some government spokespersons, including the Secretary of Labor and Human Resources of Puerto Rico, they are analyzing the legal grounds that support the decision and will determine if the best course of action is to appeal. However, given this swift action and decisive language used by the Court, in addition to the good track record of the Board in PROMESA cases, it is likely that the decision will be upheld. Moreover, the least that is needed at this moment is further confusion and instability from a government appeal.
AMG’s Labor and Employment Practice Team secured a win before the Puerto Rico Court of Appeals in a discrimination and retaliation case and a reversal of a penalty over an awarded bonus payment to an exempt employee.
On June 20, 2022, the governor of Puerto Rico signed into law the long-awaited amendments to Law No. 4-2017, the Labor Transformation and Flexibility Law of 2017 (also known as the Labor Reform of 2017). Now, with the benefit of an opinion of the Secretary of Labor and Human Resources of Puerto Rico issued on June 28, 2022, and a presentation by such agency on June 30, 2022, we have a better view of the scope of Law No. 41-2022, which is effective on July 20, 2022. For micro businesses and PYMES (small and medium enterprises) as defined in Law No. 62-2014, the provisions of Law No. 41-2022 will be effective ninety (90) days after its approval.
On September 21st, 2021, the governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi, signed into law the Puerto Rico Minimum Wage Act, Act 47-2021 (hereinafter the “Act”). When he made the announcement, Pierluisi expressed that, after more than 12 years without a raise to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, now through the PR Minimum Wage Act, on January 1st, 2022, the minimum wage salary in Puerto Rico will be raised to $8.50 per hour.
The new Chambers & Partners Global Practice Guide- Employment 2021 covers 52 jurisdictions. The Puerto Rico chapter of the guide, contributed by AMG, provides the latest legal information on the legislative initiatives to cope with the COVID-19 crisis, terms of employment, non-compete and non-solicitation clauses, data privacy law, foreign workers, the role of unions, and employee representative bodies, termination of employment, employment disputes and dispute resolution. It also discusses the latest trends and developments in the area of Employment Law in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico remains under a state of public health emergency first announced on March 12, 2020, in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
AMG’s Mariel Y. Haack and Edwin J. Seda-Fernández featured in Summer 2021 Edition of The In-House Lawyer Magazine.
Last week, Governor Pedro Pierluisi signed into law, Act 15-2021, which amends Act No. 42-2017, “Act to Manage the Study, Development and Research of Cannabis for Innovation, Applicable Standards and Limits”, to provide employment protections to registered and authorized medical cannabis patients by creating a protected category for these employees in their workplaces.
During the 2020 election campaign in Puerto Rico, several candidates ran on a platform that included amending the Labor Reform Act of 2017, Law No. 4 of January 26, 2017 (“Law No. 4-2017”). Accordingly, it should come to no surprise that in the opening 2021 legislation session, there is a flurry of bills in the House intended to amend or repeal Law No. 4-2017.
On August 7, 2020, the Governor of Puerto Rico signed into law House Bill 306 to prohibit workplace harassment (commonly referred to as “mobbing”).
The Complementary Act to Counter the Effects on Puerto Rico's Economy caused by the Covid-19 Emergency, signed by the Governor on June 14, 2020 (Act 57-2020), incorporates certain permanent and temporary tax measures
On June 15, 2020, in a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court (“Supreme Court”) held in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County, that employers cannot take adverse employment actions against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.