On March 14, 2020, new Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources Regulations to administer the Equal Pay Program will come into effect. The Regulations were enacted pursuant to Act. No. 16 of March 8, 2017, as amended, known as Puerto Rico's Equal Pay Act, and encourage equal pay in accordance with the Uniform Guidelines for Self-Assessment of Equal Pay in the Workplace.
The main purpose of the Regulations is to establish the organization and functioning of the Equal Pay Program (Program) required under Puerto Rico's Equal Pay Act to encourage gender pay equity. The Regulations create the Equal Pay Committee (Committee), which will oversee the procedures that private and public employers can follow to obtain a certificate of compliance with Puerto Rico's Equal Pay Act. The Committee will be responsible for evaluating employer policies and practices regarding equal pay for compliance with the law. Furthermore, the Committee's functions include, but are not limited to: (1) creating the request form for employers that wish to participate in the Program; (2) requesting information and/or documentation from employers that request certification; and (3) answering employers' questions regarding the certification process. The Committee will comprise one lawyer from each of the following departments within the Puerto Rico Department of Labor: Anti-Discrimination Unit, Legal Affair Bureau, Worker's Advocate Office, and the Women's Advocate Office, as well as one Human Resources specialist from either the public or private sector.
If an employer voluntarily requests to be certified by the Committee, it must produce a host of information, such as its total number of employees by gender; job descriptions; employer policies regarding recruitment of new employees; job application forms; average annual salaries by gender; internal complaints filed regarding unequal pay; and other documents that the Committee may deem pertinent to the investigation. The Regulations establish that any document sent to the Committee will be kept confidential and will not be reproduced or published by the Puerto Rico Department of Labor. The Anti-Discrimination Unit and the Legal Affairs Bureau, however, may request the information via existing procedures. Furthermore, the Assistant Secretary of Planning, Research and Development of the Department will have access to these documents.
The evaluation is a voluntary process that employers may request to become certified and receive a Certificate of Compliance with Puerto Rico's Equal Pay Act. The certification is valid for three years. Employers that receive such certifications will obtain, among other benefits, public recognition of their certification through an online registry. An employer may be able to limit its liability in a pay discrimination lawsuit by providing evidence of its certificate of compliance with Puerto Rico's Equal Pay Act.
Even though the Program is currently voluntary, several local media outlets have reported that the Puerto Rico Legislature is considering amendments to Puerto Rico's Equal Pay Act to require all employers to conduct a self-assessment of their business for compliance.
We will be monitoring any developments that involve amendments to the voluntary nature of the self-assessment Program. Employers with questions about compliance with the provisions of Puerto Rico's Equal Pay Act, or interested in conducting a voluntary self-assessment pursuant to said statute, should contact their employment counsel.
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