On April 9, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Puerto Rico Governor Hon. Wanda Vázquez-Garced signed into law House Bill No. 2428 ("Bill No. 2428"), now Act No. 37-2020, to amend the Puerto Rico Minimum Salary, Vacation and Sick Leave Act, otherwise known as Act 180-1998. The purpose of Bill No. 2428 is to establish a special paid leave for non-exempt employees infected (or are suspected of being infected) by the illness or epidemic that triggers a state of emergency declared by either the Governor of Puerto Rico or the Secretary of the Puerto Rico Health Department.
Specifically, Bill No. 2428 amended Article 6 of Act No. 180-1998 to add a subsection (p) to provide an employee infected or suspected of being infected with the disease or illness that caused the state of emergency the right to a special paid leave of five working days. Importantly, to use the special paid leave the employee must first exhaust all available accrued sick leave, as well as any other available accrued leave to which the employee is entitled. Employees cannot use this special paid leave for any other reason than those specifically established in subsection (p) of Article 6.
Notably, Bill No. 2428 also amended Article 6, subsection (q), previously subsection (p), of Act No. 180-1998 to add that an employee's use of the special leave cannot be used as a measure of the employee's efficiency when determining pay raises or promotions. Likewise, those absences cannot be used to justify disciplinary actions, such as suspensions or termination.
The amendments Bill No. 2428 made to Act No. 180-1998 were effective immediately upon their approval on April 9, 2020.
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