Puerto Rico has adopted an expansive new law that prohibits workplace harassment.
The Act to Prohibit and Prevent Workplace Harassment in Puerto Rico was signed into law on August 7 by Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced, who called the legislation an “historic” labor protection.
The law defines workplace harassment as actions and behavior that are “malicious, unwanted, repetitive and abusive; arbitrary, unreasonable and/or capricious … [performed] repeatedly by the employer, his agents, supervisors or employees, oblivious to the legitimate interests of the employer’s company.”
The prohibited actions must be “unwelcome” and threaten the employee’s dignity and “protected constitutional rights.”
Moreover, the harassment must “create an intimidating, humiliating, hostile or offensive work environment, not suitable for the reasonable person to perform their duties or tasks in a normal manner.”
The law applies to both public and private employers.
Examples of actionable conduct include injurious or defamatory speech about a worker, use of profanity, hostile and humiliating comments about the workers’ competence in the presence of co-workers and public ridicule directed at an employee’s physical appearance or dress.
Complainants are required to exhaust internal remedies with the employer and, if that is unsuccessful, to undergo mediation with the Alternate Dispute Resolution Bureau of the Judiciary. If mediation is unsuccessful, workers can file a lawsuit.
Workers are entitled to an award of monetary and compensatory damages, doubled.
Employers are required to enact rules and policies to eliminate or reduce workplace harassment, to investigate claims and to impose sanctions on those who violate the policies. The Puerto Rico Department of Labor will issue uniform guidelines to employers by February 3, 2021.