Within Puerto Rico’s highly regulated workplace, a must-have policy is one dealing with retaliation at work. Law 169-2014 has transformed the local general retaliation statute into a liability minefield and the first line of defense is a carefully drafted policy.
There are many federal and local statutes prohibiting retaliation in Puerto Rico. However, these generally refer to the engagement of a particular activity. General Retaliation Law 115-1991, 29 P.R. LAWS ANN. tit. 29, § 194a et seq., protects employees in the broadest terms possible from retaliation by their employers “for providing or attempting to provide any testimony, expression or information in a legislative, administrative or judicial forum in Puerto Rico”. This law was amended on September 29, 2014 by Law 169-2014 to include activities within the workplace.
Under the new version of the general retaliation law, employers cannot retaliate against workers who provide or attempt to provide “testimony, expression or information processes to any employee or representative in a position of authority; provided that the expressions are not defamatory nor constitute disclosure of privileged information, as established by law” (our translation).
The new language paints retaliation in the workplace with a very broad brush. Since companies operate with procedures, practically any information, expression or testimony (actually provided or attempted) given by an employee to a supervisor can arguably be considered a protected activity . Once an activity is protected, any adverse response may form the basis for a civil action and cause the employer to defend itself, explain and justify.
Retaliation at work can come in many forms and employers must be prepared by understanding and minimizing the risks through appropriate training and enforced policies.