Winter 2007-12 Summary of late-2006 labor laws
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Winter 2007-12 Summary of late-2006 labor laws

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Number 66
Winter 2007

Summary of late-2006 labor laws

Puerto Rico Business Law Developments presents short summaries of relevant labor laws enacted by the Commonwealth legislature in September and November of 2006.

Domestic violence protocol

Law Number 217, of September 29, 2006, requires both public and private sector employers to develop and implement a protocol to manage domestic violence situations in the workplace. The legislation was motivated by the need to promote the public policy of zero tolerance of domestic violence. The implementation of said protocol intends to provide uniformity with respect to measures and procedures to be followed when an employee, male or female, has been a victim of domestic violence. The law states that taking effective preventive and security measures will enable the adequate handling of cases that may carry over into the workplace.

It is the responsibility of each and every employer in Puerto Rico to comply with the requirement of establishing the protocol, which should include the following minimum requirements:

  • a declaration of public policy,
  • a legal basis,
  • personal duties and
  • uniform procedures to be followed in the handling of such cases.

The Office of the Solicitor of Women will offer the technical counsel necessary for the elaboration and the implementation of these protocols; and the Department of Labor and Human Resources will shoulder the responsibility of enforcing them.

Social Security number

Public Law Number 207, of September 27, 2006, was enacted to prohibit private employers and public corporations from using employees’ Social Security numbers as means of identification. Specifically, no employer in the private sector or public corporation is now allowed to:

  • show or display the Social Security number of any employee (regardless of the position) in identification cards;
  • show or display the Social Security number of any employee in a public place;
  • show or display the Social Security number of any employee in a document for general circulation;
  • show or display the Social Security number of any employee in personnel directories or similar lists, unless the people with access to such directories or lists have restricted access and a legitimate business reason.

These protections may be waived voluntarily, in writing, by the employee, but such waivers may not be required as a condition for employment. If a document with the employee’s Social Security number must be made public, the number must be edited out or made illegible. The editing of the number under these conditions will not be considered an alteration of the document.

The prohibitions in this statute are not applicable to legitimate internal procedures, such as those required by law, confirmation of identity, tax purposes or hiring.

The statute became effective immediately, but it grants the Department of Labor a period of six months to promulgate a regulation to supervise compliance. The law also requires the regulation to allow for a period of six months during which employers are to certify compliance to the Department of Labor, or the creation of a work plan to comply with the statute’s requirements.

Failure to comply with this statute, or to protect the confidentiality of the Social Security number, may result in fines of up to $5,000 per case.

Nursing Mothers in the Workplace

On November 6, 2006, Law Number 239 was enacted to amend the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act, entitling a nursing mother to a paid one-hour break each day for 12 consecutive months, in order to breastfeed her child, or to extract breast milk. The period begins to run when the employee returns from maternity leave. Prior to the enactment of Law Number 239 the maximum paid break was of one half hour on each day, for one year.

Pursuant to the statute, the break can be taken in any of the following ways:

the employee can take a full hour,

she can divide the break in two periods of 30 minutes each, or

she can divide it in three periods of 20 minutes each.

The law also requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location where an employee can feed or extract her milk in privacy.

The statute also provides an annual tax exemption for employers who grant the daily break, equivalent to one month’s salary of each benefited employee.

An employer who fails to comply may be held liable for damages equal to three times the employee’s daily salary, multiplied by the amount of the days that the break was denied.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Law Number 252 was enacted on November 30, 2006, to amend the Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act and prohibit sexual harassment that occurs through the use of the Internet or other electronic means, including electronic mail. Virtual sexual harassment is a threat to electronic business and to multiple labor-related issues handled through the Internet.

“Virtual sexual harassment” is all communication, conduct or expression that flows by telecommunication media or work tools that use computerized media, that can cause a hostile work environment.

Sexual harassment in employment consists of any type of undesired sexual approach, demand for sexual favors and any other verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature, or that is reproduced using any means of communication, including the use of multimedia tools through the Internet or by any electronic means, when one or more of the following circumstances occurs:

  • when submission to said conduct becomes, implicitly or explicitly, a term or condition of the person’s employment;
  • when submission to or rejection of such conduct by the person becomes the grounds for decisions on the job, or regarding the job, that affect that person;
  • when that conduct has the effect or purpose of interfering unreasonably with the performance of the person’s work, or when it creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

© 2007 Goldman Antonetti & Cordóva, LLC