On September 28, 2022, the Governor of Puerto Rico signed P.R. Senate Bill 217 into PR Act No. 82-2022. Act 82-2022 amends Puerto Rico’s sexual harassment statute (PR Act No. 17-1988, as amended) to cover interns carrying out work for educational or training purposes, regardless of compensation and to require employers to establish a protocol for sexual harassment investigation purposes.
Such Act incorporates Article 16 to PR Act No. 17-1988, as amended, which orders the Women’s Advocate Office and the Department of Labor and Human Resources to create an online portal in which individuals can find information regarding laws and remedies related to sexual harassment; and allows them to file complaints online. Both agencies shall provide technical assistance and verify employers’ compliance.
Notably, Article 15 of Act 82-2022 orders employers to adopt and implement a Protocol to Manage Situations of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace or Employment. The employer may adopt the protocol designed by the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources or implement its own protocol. Such Protocol, at a minimum, must include:
- A statement that sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal;
- egal provisions under which the protocol is adopted;
- Statement of Purpose (prevent, discourage, avoid and no toleration of sexual harassment behaviors in employment);
- Designation of personnel in charge of sexual harassment matters and their responsibilities; if the employer has more than five employees, a description of the process for filing internal sexual harassment complaints and the names and contact information of the person(s) to whom complaints should be filed;
- Who can file an internal complaint and the procedure, which shall include the option to file a verbal, written or an anonymous complaint, as well as the ability to investigate rumors based on “real suspicion”;
- Measures to maintain confidentiality;
- Anti-retaliation provision, including an express statement that retaliation against individuals who complain of sexual harassment or who testify or assist in any investigation or proceeding related to a sexual harassment case is unlawful;
- Provide examples of prohibited conduct;
- Process for the designation of the investigative entity/individual;
- Provisional protection measures for complainants or victims;
- Other legal remedies and forums for victims, both judicial and administrative (e.g., Women’s Advocate Office, Department of Labor and Human Resources, “Equal Employment Opportunity Commission”), and instructions on how to contact such agencies;
- Information about federal and state legal provisions relating to sexual harassment, remedies available to victims, and an express statement that other local laws may apply; and
- Include a complaint form for employees to report sexual harassment incidents, which shall provide, among other things, a blank space to indicate whether there have been previous complaints of sexual harassment.
If you have any questions about Act 82-2022 or the impact it may cause your company, feel free to contact us at SMC at (787) 765-5656.