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Puerto Rico Extends Lockdown and Curfew, Imposes Additional Restrictions

On March 30, 2020, following the recommendations of the Medical Task Force convened to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Puerto Rico Governor Hon. Wanda Vazquez-Garced issued two additional executive orders to help contain the virus. The first, Executive Order 2020-29 (“OE 2020-29”), is of particular significance to employers as it extends the curfew and lockdown provisions currently in effect and establishes additional conditions upon which certain exempt businesses may continue to operate.

Puerto Rico Secretary of Labor Announces New Unemployment Benefits Available for Private Employees

In the wake of the Coronavirus/COVID-19, the Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Labor (Secretary) announced today the availability of additional unemployment benefits in Puerto Rico for eligible employees, as well as self-employed workers and independent contractors, due to the enactment of the federal statute known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES).

U.S. DOL Issues Additional Questions and Answers on the FFCRA which Directly Impact Puerto Rico Employers

On March 26, 2020, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) issued additional questions and answers (Q&As) that further explain employer and employee rights and responsibilities under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The DOL’s guidance directly impacts those private-sector employers in Puerto Rico that have closed their worksites in compliance with Executive Order OE-2020-023 (EO) issued by Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced on March 14, 2020, and had hoped to be able to provide their employees paid leave under the FFCRA. This article addresses certain Q&As that affect most employers and employees in Puerto Rico.

Considerations for Employers in Puerto Rico Monitoring Employees’ Body Temperatures

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources issued guidance that specifically allows employers to take an employee’s body temperature provided they secure the individual’s express consent. Similarly, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently updated its guidance to expressly permit employers to implement temperature-screening measures given the current pandemic situation. The EEOC’s guidance acknowledges that generally, such screening constitutes a medical examination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC explains, however, that “[b]ecause the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and state/local health authorities have acknowledged community spread of COVID-19 and issued attendant precautions, employers may measure employees’ body temperature.”

Puerto Rico Secretary of Labor Issues New Opinion on Provisions Applicable to Exempt, Non-Exempt Employees

The Puerto Rico Secretary of Labor and Human Resources, Hon. Briseida Torres-Reyes, has issued Opinion No. 2020-02 on the applicable legal provisions related to exempt and non-exempt employees of the private sector as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency.

Puerto Rico Department of Labor Issues New Opinion Regarding Employee Compensation and Available Leaves During the COVID-19 Emergency

On March 23, 2020, the Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources issued Opinion No. 2020-02 (Opinion 2020-02) discussing provisions applicable to both exempt and non-exempt private-sector employees impacted by the COVID-19-related lockdown imposed by Executive Order No. 2020-023. Opinion 2020-02 addresses permitted wage deductions, restates the employer’s duty to comply with occupational health and safety requirements, and briefly discusses the new paid leaves available to employees pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Pub. L. 116-127. The following highlights the most noteworthy aspects of Opinion 2020-02.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act and its Interplay with Puerto Rico’s Local Provisions Regarding Vacation and Sick Leave

On March 18, 2020, the president signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Among other things, the new law provides for paid sick leave and expanded FMLA provisions. The FFCRA takes effect on April 2, 2020, and sunsets on December 31, 2020.

Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources Urges Employers to Adopt Teleworking Policies

To help limit the spread of COVID-19, governments have implemented strict and serious measures on social distancing, population curfews and even total lockdowns. In Puerto Rico, Governor Hon. Wanda Vázquez-Garced issued a state of emergency followed by Executive Order 2020-023 (EO 2020-023), which instituted an island-wide lockdown and closure of all private and public entities to combat the spread of the virus, with limited exceptions. Due to the lockdown and closure of commercial businesses, many employers are implementing teleworking policies in order to keep their businesses running.

Puerto Rico Transportation Bureau Issues Additional Guidance on COVID-Related Shutdown and Curfew

On March 17, 2020, Luis D. García Fraga, Chief Commissioner of Puerto Rico’s Transportation and Other Public Services Bureau, issued guidance on Executive Order EO-2020-23 (EO) and the operations allowed during the lockdown resulting from the COVID-19 emergency crisis. The Bureau’s guidance focuses on the EO’s exemption for commercial businesses involved in the distribution chain of food, medicines, medical equipment and fuel.

Puerto Rico State Insurance Fund Adopts COVID-19 Emergency Measures for Employers

On March 18, 2020, the Puerto Rico State Insurance Fund Corporation (PR-SIF) adopted additional measures for the benefit of employers in Puerto Rico due to the emergency caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
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