Summary of Employment Legislation

The following is a brief summary of some of the major statutes affecting employment practices in Puerto Rico.

 

Puerto Rico Law 100, 29 L.P.R.A. § 146

Law 100 prohibits discrimination at the workplace on the basis of the employee’s gender, age, race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, social or national origin, social condition, political or religious ideas, being a victim or being perceived as a victim of domestic violence or sexual aggression, being a member or former member of the armed forces, or a veteran. Among other things, this law protects current employees, as well as applicants, against termination, suspension, or discrimination in the terms of employment, including changes in salary, work schedules, and any other conditions or privileges.  Remedies include reinstatement and damages.

 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII makes it illegal to discriminate against a person in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.  The statute forbids employers from retaliating against employees for complaining about discrimination, filing a charge of discrimination, or participating in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Additionally, Title VII mandates the employer to reasonably accommodate the true religious practices of applicants and employees, unless doing so would constitute an undue hardship.

 

Title I of the Americans with Dissabilities Act

The ADA makes it illegal to discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities, or to retaliate against them because they complain about discrimination, file a charge of discrimination, or participate in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. The statute also requires employers to accommodate the known physical or mental disabilities of an otherwise qualified individual, be it an employee or applicant, unless doing so would constitute an undue hardship.

 

Age Discrimination in Employment Act

The ADEA forbids employers from discriminating against individuals who are 40 years old or older.  The statute also makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against its employees for complaining of discrimination, filing a charge of discrimination, or participating in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

 

Federal Equal Pay Act

This law requires equal pay for men and women when they perform equal work in the same workplace. The statute prohibits employers from retaliating against employees when they complain of discrimination, file a charge of discrimination, or participate in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Puerto Rico’s Prohibition Against Gender Discrimination - Law 69, 29 LPRA § 1321

This statute prohibits the unequal treatment of employees on the basis of gender.  Unlawful considerations for discrimination include: pregnancy, child birth, and related medical conditions and treatments.

 

Federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Employers are forbidden from discriminating against women because they are pregnant, or because of childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth.  The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees because they complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

 

Puerto Rico’s Pregnancy Legislation – Law No. 3, 29 L.P.R.A. § 467

Law No. 3 prohibits discrimination on the pregnant woman’s terms and conditions of employment.  When a pregnant woman is unjustly terminated, or the employer refuses to re-employ her after childbirth, the law mandates reinstatement and imposes civil liability for twice the amount of the damages suffered, or an amount between $1,000.00 and $5,000.00.  Pregnant women are entitled to four weeks of paid leave before labor and four additional weeks afterwards.  The pregnant employee may choose to begin her leave up to one week before childbirth, and then take her remaining seven weeks afterwards.  She may also opt to return to work after two weeks of post-natal rest.  For any of these two alternatives, however, the employee must present medical evidence of being fit to work.  A pregnant woman may not be terminated unless for good cause, with the caveat that a reduction in the employee’s productivity during pregnancy is not considered just cause.  The benefits of this statute also accrue in favor of the employee who adopts a child who is less than five years of age and who is not matriculated in a school.

 

PR’s Law Regulating the Period of Lactation at Work – Law 427 of December 16, 2000

This statute allows a female worker who is lactating a period of one hour a day to lactate.  This one-hour period may be split in two breaks of 30 minutes or three breaks of 20 minutes.  This right to lactate has lasts 12 months from the time the women returns to work.  In order for the employee to obtain the benefits of the law, she must present the employer with a medical certification that she has been lactating her baby.  Those employers who fail to comply with this statute expose themselves to penalties of up to three times the employee’s salary for each day of lactation that the employee was denied her right.  As an encouragement for compliance, a private employer who properly affords its employee the required lactation period is entitled to a tax exemption equivalent to one month of salary for the lactating employee.

 

Sexual Harassment at Work – Law 17 of April 22, 1988 - 29 LPRA § 155 et. seq.

Law 17 protects employees and job applicants from sexual harassment at the workplace. 

The statute defines sexual harassment as any approach, request for sexual favors, and any other verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature, when it is accompanied with any of the following circumstances:

  • When the submission to such conduct by the person becomes, implicitly or explicitly, a term or condition of employment.
  • When submitting or rejecting such conduct becomes the basis for decisions that affect the employment of the terms of employment of that person.
  • When such conduct affects, or is intended to affect, in an unreasonable manner, the execution at work of that person, or when it creates a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment.

 

In order to fulfil its duty to maintain the workplace free of sexual harassment, the employer must:

  • Clearly inform its employees and personnel of its strong policy against sexual harassment.
  • Publicly display at the work place information for job applicants about their rights and protections under the Law.
  • Establish an adequate and effective internal procedure for the handling of sexual harassment complaints.  When these complaints are presented, they must be processed promptly. 

 

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

This statute makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against employees or applicants because of their genetic information.  Employers must not discriminate on the basis of a person’s genetic tests or the genetic tests of a person’s family members.  Information from genetic tests about any disease, disorder or condition of the individual or her family members may not be used to make determinations on the individual’s terms or conditions of employment.  The statute also prohibits retaliation against an employee because the employee complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

 

Employment Records

Puerto Rico employers are required to maintain appropriate records of their recruitment practices, seminars and learning programs for their employees, job advancement plans, and any other employment practices.  These records must be maintained for at least two years after they were created.

 

Preventive Action

Employers have a duty to implement action plans to prevent unlawful discrimination in the work place, including sexual harassment.  In their endeavors, employers are permitted to undertake investigations on their own (“motu propio”), without the need for a complaint to be presented.

 

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