Puerto Rico remains under a state of public health emergency first announced on March 12, 2020, in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases on the island, on August 5 and August 11, 2021, governor Pedro Pierluisi issued Executive Orders, 2021-062 and 2021-063, which extend previously-announced vaccination requirements for employees in the public sector (Executive Order 2021-058) to government contractors, employees in the healthcare industry, as well as employees in the hospitality and tourism industry (including hotels, inns, and other lodgings. Concessionaries and other businesses operating within the vicinity of or in connection with these industries have been encouraged to adopt this requirement. Furthermore, all persons who wish to stay at any hotel, inn, short-term rental (including those using internet platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO, and others), must present evidence of vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test. Executive Order 2021-062 goes into effect on August 16, 2021. The employees covered by Executive Order 2021-062 must be fully vaccinated by September 30, 2021.
In addition, Executive Order 2021-063, which goes into effect on August 23, 2021, sets forth that all restaurants, bars, cafeterias, theaters, cinemas, coliseums, event venues, and any other establishment that serves food or beverages must require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Employees must present evidence that they have received at least one dose of the vaccine on or before August 23, 2021, and the second dose no later than October 7, 2021.
Subsequently, on August 19, 2021, governor Pierluisi issued Executive Order 2021-064, which further extends local vaccine mandates to include employees of gymnasiums, beauty salons, barbershops, spas, childcare centers, casinos, supermarkets, grocery stores (including business authorized under the WIC Program) and gas stations. These employees must show proof of their first dose of the vaccine on or before August 30, 2021, and of their second dose no later than October 15, 2021.
There are only limited exceptions to the newly-enacted vaccine mandates:
– Documented medical reasons;
– Sincerely held religious beliefs; and
– Evidence of having recovered from COVID-19 in the last three (3) months, along with a medical certification that the employee is no longer contagious.
Any employee who is unable to or refuses to get vaccinated due to covered by an exception to the Executive Orders discussed above must present a weekly negative COVID-19 test. An employee who cannot comply with the foregoing must not be allowed to present themselves to work and must be placed on leave (paid or unpaid, depending on the employer’s policies).
Moreover, all patrons of establishments covered by the aforementioned Executive Orders must present evidence of COVID-19 vaccination; a negative COVID-19 test performed no more than seventy-two (72) hours prior to presenting themselves to the venue, or evidence that they have recovered from a COVID-19 infection within the last three (3) months and a medical certificate indicating that they are no longer contagious. Employers and private establishments are free to implement more restrictive measures.
Establishments who fail to comply with the directives set forth in these Executive Orders shall be subject to fines and criminal penalties, as well as restrictions on their operating capacity. The aforementioned requirements will remain in place until the state of emergency is lifted. Please be advised that it is expected that additional actions will be taken, including the implementation of further vaccination mandates, in order to encourage vaccination, reduce community transmission, and hasten reaching the threshold for herd immunity on the island.
We continue to monitor this situation as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. For further information or, if you should have any questions or comments, or if you should require more specific guidance on this issue, please contact the Labor and Employment law team at AMG.
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.
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.
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.
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.