On May 8, 2019, the Puerto Rico Department of Labor (“PR DOL” or “the Agency”) published the first edition of its Guidelines on the Interpretation of Puerto Rico’s Employment Legislation. The stated purpose of the Guidelines is to provide a single-source compilation of the PR DOL’s official statutory interpretation of nearly all of Puerto Rico’s employment laws. Moreover, this first edition includes discussion, interpretation, and analysis of the amendments introduced by the Puerto Rico Labor Transformation and Flexibility Act, Act No. 4 of January 26, 2017 (“Act 4-2017”).
In issuing these Guidelines, the PR DOL intends to set forth an unambiguous and uniform position regarding the statutory framework governing the employer-employee relationship. The PR DOL expects to provide legal certainty regarding the Agency’s interpretation of the laws and regulations that it is tasked with implementing and administering. The Guidelines themselves note, however, that they do not create any substantive or procedural rights. Specifically, the Guidelines state that they are to be considered a Guide Document as defined in Puerto Rico’s Uniform Administrative Procedure Act. In the past, the PR DOL has issued similar guidelines that focused on specific statutes. Although not binding upon the courts, such guidelines were occasionally cited—including by the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico—for their persuasive value. There is little doubt that these Guidelines will also serve as persuasive authority within the judicial system.
The Guidelines cover a wide range of statutes and, for clarity’s sake, have been ordered in mostly the same structure as Act 4-2017. Among others matters, the Guidelines address longstanding statutes, such as those governing wage and hour, leaves of absence, prohibited discrimination, and Puerto Rico’s unjust dismissal statute. Further, the Guidelines provide the PR DOL’s opinion on legal provisions added by Act 4-2017. All in all, the Guidelines provide a wide range of the PR DOL’s official interpretation of employment-related statutes and will probably receive significant attention in the coming years.