On June 20, 2020, the Governor of Puerto Rico signed Act No. 58-2020, known as the “Puerto Rico Electoral Code of 2020” (“the Electoral Code”).
In general terms, the Electoral Code establishes the new rules, regulations, and guidelines for the participation of the citizens of Puerto Rico in the electoral process. Section 5.1 of the Electoral Code affirms the rights and prerogatives of voters. Included is the right of every voter who is self-employed or employed in the public or private sector to be able to request an early vote (which includes: voting by mail or at an early vote center with hours that do not conflict with the employee’s work-schedule). For an employee to be eligible to request early vote: (1) it must be foreseeable that the employee must work during the election day and hours, and (2) the vote must comply with the State Elections Commission (SEC) deadlines and regulations. For the current general election, the deadline to request an early vote was September 14th, 2020.
Notably, section 5.1 (17) provides that, if it is not foreseeable for the employee to request the early vote, employers must grant the employee a maximum of two hours with pay to vote during their working hours. As stated in the November 3, 2020 General Elections Proclamation, voting centers will remain open from 9:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. Accordingly, if an employee is scheduled to work on November 3rd (during the available voting hours) and they could not request an early vote and requests authorization to exercise their right to vote, the employer must grant such request for paid leave to vote pursuant to the Electoral Code. As stated above, the employee will have a maximum of two hours with pay to exercise their right to vote.
Please note that the Closing Law, which required employers in the private sector subject to its provisions to close during General Election Day, was repealed effective January 26, 2017 by the Labor Transformation and Flexibility Act. Accordingly, there is no legal prohibition mandating that employers close their operations on General Election Day.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this matter or if you’d like assistance to revise or modify your practices and policies accordingly, please contact any of the following attorneys from our Labor & Employment Practice Group at your convenience:
|Juan J. Casillas Ayala
|Luis F. Llach-Zúñiga
|Israel Fernández Rodríguez
|Luis R. Ramos Cartagena
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