For Puerto Rico, the general elections, and June 5th primaries, are fast approaching. This means that every employer in Puerto Rico needs to be aware of their employees’ voting rights, especially since voter turnout is historically very high.

In Puerto Rico, general elections are held every four years, the first Tuesday following the first Monday of November. This year, that will be November 8, 2016. Public employees, as well as many private employees, have the day off work. Private employees may be required to work, depending on the type of business for which they work. Regardless, employers must remain vigilant because in Puerto Rico all employees have a right to vote.

Retail establishments, which ordinarily are subject to the provisions of the Puerto Rico Law to Regulate the Operation of Commercial Establishments (“Closing Law”), must remain closed and cannot operate on the day of the general elections. Non-retail, private employers may operate their business during general elections, but they must allow their employees time to exercise their right to vote in their district’s designated polling place, taking into consideration, among other factors, the distance between the employer’s place of business and the polling place and the polling place hours (usually, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.).

The time allowed for an employee to vote during general elections or primaries is unpaid, except where the employee requests to use his or her vacation leave or paid personal time, in which case, the time will be paid.

Another relevant consideration is whether the employee will serve as a local election commissioner. If the answer is “yes,” the time off to exercise his or her responsibilities will be paid because it is illegal for an employer to authorize, consent, or take adverse employment actions, such as by reducing the employee’s salary, because the employee served as a local election commissioner, regardless of whether the employee volunteered or was summoned to work as commissioner.

Finally, employers must allow their employees to register to vote in a general election. If an employer does not allow an employee to register to vote or obstructs his or her right to vote, it will face a misdemeanor or be fined.

Employers may contact Jackson Lewis attorneys in the San Juan office if they have questions regarding Puerto Rico voting laws, employer’s obligations and employee’s rights during general elections in Puerto Rico, or other issue regarding Puerto Rico employment law.