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On February 20, 2018, Puerto Rico’s Leave for Catastrophic Illness law, which provides six days of paid leave for employees for their own serious illness, goes into effect. The law contains the following provisions:

Employee Eligiblity: All employees, including exempt, non-exempt employees, and temporary employees, are covered once they have worked more than 12 months and an average of 130 hours per month during that period. Existing employees who meet these requirements at the time of the law’s effective date are entitled to this leave.

Covered Employers: All private and public employers are covered by the Puerto Rico Leave for Catastrophic Illnesses law.

Leave Reasons: An employee can take leave when the employee needs time to deal with his or her own serious catastrophic illness. “Serious Catastrophic Illnesses” are defined as those illnesses listed in the Special Coverage of the Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration (Administración de Seguros de Salud de Puerto Rico), as may be amended. This list includes: AIDS, Tuberculosis, Leprosy, Lupus, Cystic Fibrosis, Cancer, Hemophilia, Aplastic Anemia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Autism, Post-Organ Transplant, Scleroderma, Multiple Sclerosis, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis‎ (ALS), Chronic Renal Disease in Stages 3, 4, and 5.

Amount of Leave: Employees with a catastrophic illness are entitled to six days of paid leave per year. Before an employee can use the Puerto Rico Leave for Catastrophic Illnesses, the employee must have exhausted any accrued sick leave. The leave cannot be accumulated or carried over into subsequent years. Use of this leave is considered time worked for purposes of employee benefits accumulation. An employee may use Puerto Rico Leave for Catastrophic Illness on a continuous, intermittent, or reduced schedule (flexible) basis.

Separation from Employment: If the employee resigns from or is separated from employment, the employer is not required to pay accumulated but unused leave.

Notification Requirements: The Puerto Rico Leave for Catastrophic Illness does not contain any provisions for required employee or employer notices.

Documentation / Certification: Employers may require certification of diagnosis and care from a health care professional.  An employer must keep all medical documentation submitted by an employee confidential.

Job Protection/Anti-Retaliation: Employers cannot consider the use of this leave to issue negative evaluations, take adverse actions including, but not limited to reduced working hours, change of positions, or changes of shifts.

Enforcement and Penalties: The Secretary of Labor and Human Resources of Puerto Rico has to power to investigate, receive and file complaints, and impose penalties.  Any employer who does not comply and deprives an eligible employee to the benefits provided in the Puerto Rico Leave for Catastrophic Illness law is subject to a fine of up to two thousand dollars ($ 2,000.00).

Employers in Puerto Rico should review their leave policies and ensure that they are compliant with the new law. ReedGroup keeps you up to date on developments in leave laws through our blog and other products, including our online compliance tool, LeaveAdvisor®.

Lori Welty

Lori Welty

Lori Welty, Esq. is a Compliance Attorney at ReedGroup. Ms. Welty provides expertise in all areas of state and federal leave law, including Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and their state law equivalents as well as disability and family leave benefits. Ms. Welty is an ongoing author of ReedGroup’s LeaveAdvisor online reference tool, as well as many other white papers and articles.

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