On September 28, 2022, Governor Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico signed Law Number 82-2022 into law, amending Puerto Rico's sexual harassment statute to require private employers to issue and implement specific protocols to manage sexual harassment incidents in their workplaces.
The new law directs the Office the Women's Solicitor in Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Department of Labor (PRDOL) to publish technical advice for employers for such protocols. Employers may either adopt the model protocols issued by the PRDOL or create their own policies and complaint form so long as they meet or exceed the minimum requirements set forth in the new law.
Under the new law, an employer's harassment policy must, at a minimum, include the following:
- A statement that sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal;
- The legal basis for the protocol;
- A statement of purpose;
- Key definitions;
- The appointment of personnel in charge of sexual harassment matters and their responsibilities;
- A description of the process for filing internal sexual harassment complaints and the names and contact information of the persons with whom complaints should be filed (for employers with five or more employees);
- The criteria identifying which workers can file a complaint and the procedures to file it, which must include the option of presenting a verbal, written or anonymous complaint and the employer's ability to investigate incidents based on "real suspicion;"
- Measures to maintain confidentiality;
- A retaliation provision, including an express statement that retaliation is unlawful against any employee who makes a sexual harassment complaint or who testifies or assists in an investigation or proceeding related to a sexual harassment complaint;
- Examples of prohibited conduct that would constitute sexual harassment;
- A process for the designation of an investigative entity to adjudicate complaints;
- Provisional measures to protect complainants or victims;
- A list of other legal remedies, both judicial and administrative, and resources for victims with instructions on how to contact appropriate government agencies;
- Information about federal and state legal statutes that protect employees against sexual harassment, the remedies available, and an express statement that other local laws may apply; and
- The complaint form for employees to report claims of sexual harassment, which must provide, among other things, a space for the complainant to indicate any other prior conduct that may constitute sexual harassment.
The statute further orders the PRDOL to create an online portal that provides information on the laws prohibiting sexual harassment, resources, and how to file harassment complaints online.
The new law amends the existing anti-harassment statute in Puerto Rico and directs the PRDOL to issue model protocols for employers to manage sexual harassment claims. However, the agency has yet to publish the model protocols, and there is some uncertainty as to when they would be published. In the meantime, employers in Puerto Rico may want to review their existing workplace policies prohibiting sexual harassment and discrimination and evaluate the extent to which they comply with the minimum requirements set forth in the new law.
Ogletree Deakins' Cross-Border Practice Group will continue to monitor and report on developments with Puerto Rican labor and employment laws and will post updates on the firm's Cross-Border blog. Important information for employers is also available via the firm's webinar and podcast programs.
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