The Department of Labor and Human Resources of Puerto Rico, in accordance with Section 2.19 of Act No. 4-2017, known as the Labor Transformation and Flexibility Act ("LTFA"), has enacted the Regulation to Implement Religious Accommodation in the Workplace (the "Regulation"). This Regulation, as its name implies, establishes guidelines and procedures regarding religious accommodation in the workplace.
Section 2.19 of the LTFA requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of employees or potential employees, unless doing so would create an excessive and undue hardship. As per the Regulation, the employer bears the burden of proving that a specific accommodation would result in greater costs, impair workplace safety, negatively impact the employee's responsibilities, or that any other alternate accommodation would be unreasonable under the circumstances. In addition, an employer may not simply refuse religious accommodation based on the presumption that other employees with the same religious beliefs and/or practices would request similar accommodation.
Employees seeking religious accommodation must do so in writing and with reasonable anticipation. The written request must include: 1) a description of the religious practice; 2) frequency; and 3) the requested accommodation. The employer must provide a definitive response within seven (7) days upon receiving the request, unless the employee's religious practice requires a shorter term. Failure by the employer to provide an answer within said term will be considered as granting the requested accommodation.
An employer that cannot provide the requested religious accommodation is required to: 1) try in good faith to find an alternate accommodation; or 2) if the accommodation cannot be provided, identify the specific hardship caused by the requested accommodation. If the parties cannot agree on an accommodation, the Regulation provides a formal complaint procedure before the Office of Mediation and Adjudication of the Department of Labor. Failure to provide reasonable accommodation, or if the employer takes any adverse employment action because of a request for accommodation, may result mandatory in fines of up to $5,000 and/or formal judicial action.