Governor enacts laws to offer greater protection to Puerto Rico workers
SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has signed two legislative bills that provide more rights and benefits to Puerto Rico workers by granting protections on the use of sick leave by public and private employees.
House Bill 96, authored by Rep. Ángel Peña, forbids employers in the private sector to use “excused” sick leave, justified with medical evidence, as a criterion to evaluate employees.
“A duly justified absence due to illness is a right and thus should not be grounds for an action against that worker,” Rosselló said.
The new law prohibits the penalization of productive and outstanding employees who are forced to be absent for health reasons. That is, it is forbidden to use excused absences for illness in evaluations for promotions or salary increases; nor can they be used to justify disciplinary measures.
“With the signing of Act 4-2017, we fulfilled our programmatic commitment to carry out labor reform that would do justice to workers and employers by making the rules that impede the economic development of the island more flexible. The measures we signed today also ensure an adequate balance between labor flexibility and worker protection,” the governor added.
The governor also signed Senate Bill 461, authored by Sen. Miguel Romero, to create a special sick leave of six days annually for employees in the private or public sectors who have certain illness.
This leave may be used by employees with one or more of the following: AIDS, tuberculosis, leprosy, lupus, cystic fibrosis, cancer, hemophilia, aplastic anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, autism, post-organ transplantation, scleroderma, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and chronic kidney disease at levels 3, 4 and 5.
“This benefit will apply to a few employees whose conditions put them in the most vulnerable sector of our working class. Therefore, it is necessary to make way for this protective legislation that allows these workers with chronic conditions to have a few extra days to treat their illness,” Rosselló said.
The leave may be used after an employee has exhausted their regular sick leave. The days cannot be accrued or transferred to other years, nor are they paid if unused.
In addition, the law requires the employee to have worked at least one year with the employer.