Amendment to Puerto Rico Minimum Wage, Vacation, and Sick Leave Act
On January 27, 2018 Act No. 60 became law and amended Article 6 of Puerto Rico Minimum Wage, Vacation and Sick Leave Act, Act No. 180 of July 27, 1998. This amendment granted greater protection to non-exempt employees in the private sector covered by the law, by prohibiting employers from taking into consideration the employees’ valid use of their sick leave for disciplinary actions and/or performance evaluation purposes. The amendment added subparagraph “p” to Article 6 to state that no employer, supervisor or their representative, can use, as part of the company’s administrative process or as their policy, the justified sick leaves, as criteria of an employees’ efficiency for purposes of their evaluation process, salary increase or promotions. The amendment further states that the employer cannot consider the employees’ absences due to illness and charged correctly to his/her sick leave, to justify disciplinary actions such as employment suspensions and terminations.
The reasoning behind this amendment is that it is contradictory that the very Law that grants an employee the right to sick leave, allows employers to penalize the employee for using such sick leave. The legislators find that it is a violation of this right granted by law, that an employer establishes an internal policy where they consider justified absences under the Law as irresponsible absences, and that they will be used as criteria which could negatively impact and employees’ performance evaluation, promotion and/or salary increases. Moreover, the legislators further state in their reasoning that allowing an employee to go to work in adverse health conditions could violate the employees’ constitutional and civil rights. As to instances when an employee might misuse this right, the Law’s motive states that employers have mechanisms, such as investigating the veracity of the medical certificate or getting a second medical opinion, to verify that the employee is using correctly the right granted by law. This amendment became effective immediately.