Does your business have the new protocol required to handle sexual harassment situations? This is a guide to what must be included.
An amendment to the well-known Law to Prohibit Sexual Harassment in the Workplace says that, as of September 2022, every employer is legally obligated to integrate a protocol for handling these situations as part of their policies and procedures in Puerto Rico. The statute bears the number 82-2022, and it orders businesses to create, implement, and disseminate that new set of rules within the workplace.
However, this does not replace the policies and procedures with which you had to comply under the previous law. The new procedure can integrate those policies and procedures, while also complying with some additional requirements.
Not having a protocol constitutes a violation of the law and puts the operation of your business at risk. If you already have an internal procedure in place, review it to ensure it meets the minimum standards set forth in the new statute. If you don’t have one, this is what it should include:
- A legal base
- An explanation of its purposes, including the preventive approach and the declaration of zero tolerance for any conduct that constitutes sexual harassment
- A list of definitions
- The persons in charge of managing the protocol and related matters, as well as a summary of their responsibilities
- If your business has more than five employees, it must feature a description of the process for filing complaints, including the name and contact information of the person(s) responsible for receiving complaints
- An explanation of who can file a complaint and inform that complaints can be verbal or in writing, identified or anonymous
- A declaration informing that an employee other than the victim can file a complaint or grievance if they have a “real suspicion”
- A description of the measures in place to maintain confidentiality within the complaint process and the investigation
- A specific statement regarding the illegality and prohibition of retaliation against people who complain of sexual harassment or who participate in any related proceeding
- Examples of what are conducts that constitute sexual harassment
- A disclosure on the procedure for designating the person who will investigate the complaint
- Provisional protection measures, both for complainants and victims, if the complaint is filed by a third party
- Information on other related forums, resources, and remedies, as well as instructions on how to contact relevant agencies
- Information about federal and state laws concerning sexual harassment and an express statement that there may be other applicable laws
Furthermore, the protocol must also integrate a Complaint Form to report incidents; it should include a line to indicate if there were previous sexual harassment complaints against the person.
Go to the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources website (https://www.trabajo.pr.gov/) to access the “Protocolo Modelo de Prevención y Manejo de Casos de Hostigamiento Sexual” (Sample Protocol for the Prevention and Management of Sexual Harassment Cases) that includes the minimum required legal bases.
A proactive business
To avoid sexual harassment at work, it is crucial that you disclose to your employees both the existing policies and procedures, as well as the new protocol. This way, your staff will be clear regarding the consequences of this illegal behavior and their rights to report it without fear.
Set regular dates to provide training on sexual harassment company policy and explain case management protocol. Make all that information readily accessible and make sure everyone participates, regardless of their position. Even people doing internships or volunteer work must participate, since the new law includes and protects them.
If you have not completed or revised your procedures in alignment with the new rules, do so now and comply with the law. This way you minimize the risk of some liability being imposed on you.
Established in 1995, Schuster LLC provides legal strategies and solutions for employers of all sizes in Puerto Rico. With an ever-expanding base of corporate clients, Schuster LLC has become the largest labor and employment practice in the Island representing clients in all areas of labor and employment, employee benefits and general commercial and business litigation.
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