The United States Court of Ap peals for the First Circuit has issued an opinion of major importance to any company that frequently makes use of probationary contracts in its business ( Nilsa Santiago v. Centennial P.R. Wireless Corp., 217 F3rd 46 (1st Cir. 2000)). The First Circuit nullified the probationary contract that the employee signed upon beginning her employment with the company. The employee s probationary contract stated that it was a contract for 90-calendar days, commencing July 1, 1996, and ending September 30, 1996. The Court held that although the July 1 through September 30 time period, in layman s terms, equals three months, it does not correspond to the 90 day probationary period regulated by Law 80.

Though neither the court nor the parties located any relevant case law dealing with this issue, the First Circuit seized upon the opportunity, if not somewhat reluctantly, to interpret Puerto Rico s Law 80 statute according to its plain meaning. In accordance with that interpretation, the Court held that the probationary contract from July 1, 1996 September 30, 1996, though consisting of three calendar months, actually constituted 92 days instead of the required 90 days, and was therefore, void abinitio. The Court declared that plaintiff was, therefore, entitled to payment for 4 days of accrued vacation time.

It is very important, therefore, for all human resources personnel to actually count the number of days in a probationary contract rather than simply assume that 3 calendar months is acceptable under Law 80.

Centennial was represented by AMG&B attorneys Marshal D. Morgan and Edwin J. Seda Fernández.

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