On August 1, 2019, the Governor of Puerto Rico enacted the "Act to Grant Special Leave for Employees with Situations of Domestic or Gender Violence, Child Abuse, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, Sexual Aggression, Lewd Acts or Stalking" (the "Special Leave Act").
As the name suggests, the Special Leave Act creates a new 15-day leave without pay for private and public employees dealing with these situations. The special leave may be fractioned, flexible or intermittent and may also be requested by an employee to assist family members involved in similar situations.
The special leave is designed to allow employees time to seek and secure assistance related to certain eligible emergencies or situations. These include: (i) orientation, and court orders (including protection orders); (ii) legal assistance; (iii) safe housing or shelter; (iv) certain health services; and (v) any other type of assistance or service. Employees may also be entitled to reasonable accommodation.
Employers are required to provide the special leave, keep all information and documentation related to the special leave confidential, reserve the employment and position of the employee while on leave, and provide orientation to all employees about their rights and duties as part of the protocols and regulations available in the workplace.
Employers may request evidence supporting the reason or need for the leave, and the employee must provide said evidence within the next 2 days following the last absence under the leave. The Special Leave Act allows employers to request certain records as evidence that the special leave was requested for eligible reasons, including protective orders, police reports, medical records, sworn statements and other reliable evidence.
The statute does allow employers to request prior notice when possible but specifically prohibits conduct that may result in adverse or negative performance reviews, discipline or discrimination. Additionally, the statute allows for administrative fines of up to $5,000 and creates a judicial cause of action against any employer for violating its provisions.