October 30, 2023
On October 4, 2023, Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi signed into law the Puerto Rico Athlete Mothers Protection Act (Act No. 117-2023) to protect the rights of female athletes who are mothers as well. Act No. 117-2023 is set to go into effect on December 4, 2023.
The following is an overview of the key provisions in Act No. 117-2023:
- The law prohibits sports federations, leagues, teams, and clubs (collectively, the “Covered Employers”) from engaging in any form of gender-based discrimination against female athletes based on pregnancy, either through reduced pay or loss of contract during pregnancy or any other form of discriminatory treatment.
- Forbids clauses in sports contracts that purport to penalize female athlete on account of pregnancy.
- If a female athlete must be replaced during the season due to pregnancy, she will be entitled to 45% of the total contract amount or the remainder of her contract (the parties may agree on a different percentage, provided it is not less than 25% of the base salary plus some other benefit).
- If a reserve player becomes pregnant during the off-season, she will be entitled to at least 35% of the base salary for the previous season (again, the parties may agree on a different percentage, provided it is not less than 25% of the base salary plus some other benefit).
In addition, Act No. 117-2023 requires strict adherence to the Act to Regulate Breastfeeding and Breast Milk Extraction Periods (Act No. 427-2000), meaning that sports facilities must have a functional space for expressing breast milk. Under no circumstances may the female athlete be subject to unequal or discriminatory treatment because she is breastfeeding her child or extracting breast milk.
Any person who fails to comply with the provisions of Act No. 117-2023 shall be fined no less than $15,000. Act 117-2023 also recognizes a new private cause of action allowing female athletes to recover three times her base salary. If the matter involves a reserve player out of season, the fine will be assessed using the base salary of the previous season. Claimants will be entitled to recover costs and attorney’s fees in an amount no less than $5,000.
SMC attorneys are closely monitoring updates and changes to Puerto Rico’s legal landscape and are readily available to assist employers in amending and revising their human resources policies to ensure compliance with Federal and Puerto Rico labor and employment laws and regulations.