Attorney Reynaldo Quintana Latorre of the Barraga & Quintana Law Office commented that this could present some challenges because jobseekers may not know under what circumstances the additional five are allowed due to illness.
Pursuant to Executive Order OE-2023-012 Ending the State of Emergency Due to COVID-19, Attorney Reinaldo Quintana Latorre Assured ignorance about Law 37 of 2020.
Similarly, United States President Joe Biden signed a law to end the national emergency due to the virus.
Counsel from Barraga and Quintana Law Office indicated that, for 2020, Law 180 of 1998 was amended to provide an emergency work license that provides up to five paid work days.
“This license is activated in cases of a pandemic while there is an emergency declaration activated by the Secretary of Health or the Governor of Puerto Rico. As there is no longer an emergency pursuant to administrative and/or executive orders, the license is required to be activated due to COVID-19. The obligation has already ended, ”he explained.
He remarked that this could present some challenges as employed people may not know under what circumstances the additional five days are allowed for sick leave.
In addition, he said that ignorance can generate claims in the Department of Labor and Human Resources “because there are people who will say that they were not allowed 5 days or did not pay for the COVID license.”
«For the absentees, we are where we always were. […] We are as before as if there was COVID or creation of holiday under law 37.
Given the need to inform employers and employees about the applicability of Law 37 of 2020, Mr. Quintana Latorre shared the following recommendations for employers:
Know what are your responsibilities according to the present circumstances
You are not required to honor or grant five days off. “It has become a disease that is managed under the sick leave and licensing parameters that we always knew,” he said.
Review company policies and employee handbooks
The employee handbook should be reviewed to ensure policies are up to date and in compliance.
According to Quintana Latorre, many employers revised their manuals to include the provisions of Law 37 of 2020 and linked it to COVID, without including that the emergency working holiday applies during the declared state of emergency.
Analyze whether it is necessary to include vaccinations as required
The lawyer said there is no federal or state mandate that requires vaccination. However, he added: “When you look at the guides that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission published on 15 May, […] This tells you that nothing stops employers from having a mandatory vaccination policy against COVID.
He indicated that employers need to be aware of the provisions of the Persons with Disabilities Act (ADA Act) and the Prohibition of Discrimination against Persons with Physical, Mental or Sensory Disabilities Act (Act 44 of 1985).
“My recommendation is that employers be very cautious when establishing an internal vaccination requirement and ensure that it is strictly necessary for a business reason, risk or risk. Reasonable, religious and medical accommodation scenarios and management of risks arising from litigation Because of its complexity. So it has to be evaluated while taking a decision,” he explained.
Know that they can continue to implement protective measures
Quintana Latorre highlighted that the Administrative Order, although it establishes that there is not a state of emergency, maintains the possibility for employers to recommend and maintain personal protective measures.
«He’s bound by the license. They may continue to maintain a policy that establishes mandatory isolation or quarantine for people with symptoms or suspicions of COVID. The problem would be the licenses that cover it as there is no longer a license to cover once the sick leave expires. […] These severance may result in disputes regarding compensation due to internal policies,” he shared.
He also emphasized that he recommends the use of masks. “The employer can continue to require, but it is important to understand that we must continue to maintain conditions of reasonable accommodation,” he explained.