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Puerto Rico Equal Pay Act Aims to Close Gender Pay Gap

On March 8, 2017, Puerto Rico continued the overhaul of its employment laws by enacting, with immediate effect, Act No. 16, known as the “Puerto Rico Equal Pay Act.” The act is not only similar to the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963, it also requires that Puerto Rico courts interpret the act in accordance with its federal counterpart and related federal regulations. Some of the key provisions of the act are summarized below.

Prohibition on Salary Discrimination

The act prohibits  pay discrimination based on sex against employees who perform work that requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility under similar work conditions unless the difference in pay is based on: (i) a bona fide system that rewards seniority or merit; (ii) a compensation system that is based on quantity or quality of production, sales, or profits; (iii) education, training, or experience, to the extent that these factors are reasonably related to the work in question; or (iv) any other reasonable factor that is not related to sex.

Illegal Practices

The act proscribes the following illegal practices:

  1. asking an applicant, or his or her current or past employer, about the applicant’s salary history, unless the applicant voluntarily provides such information or the potential employer and applicant have already negotiated a salary and an offer of employment has been made, in which case the potential employer may inquire or confirm the potential employee’s salary history;

  2. prohibiting an employee or applicant  from asking, discussing, soliciting, or divulging information about his or her salary or the salary of another employee who performs a comparable job (save for very narrow exceptions for human resources, supervisory, and managerial personnel, and other employees with permitted access to employee compensation data); and

  3. terminating, threatening, discriminating, or otherwise retaliating against an employee in relation to his or his terms, conditions, compensation, location, benefits, or privileges of employment because the employee: (i) divulged his or her salary or asked about or discussed the salary of other employees; (ii) objected to any act or practice that has been declared illegal by the act; (iii) filed a complaint pursuant to the act; or (iv) offered or intended to offer, verbally or in writing, any testimony, expression, or information as part of an investigation against his or her employer due to violations of the act.

Civil Actions and Penalties

The act allows an employee who alleges pay discrimination to bring a civil claim for twice the amount of the pay discrepancy. This amount includes actual damages for the pay discrepancy plus an additional penalty in the amount of the discrepancy. The employee is also entitled to reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees. An employer may avoid the additional pay discrepancy penalty if, within a year before the filing of the claim, it has initiated or completed, in good faith, a self-evaluation of its compensation policies and taken reasonable efforts to eliminate pay disparities based on sex. 

In the same vein, if an employer engages in any of the illegal practices described in the section above, the employee will be entitled to double the amount of damages caused by the employer’s illegal action. 

© 2020, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume VII, Number 79



About this Author

Diana Nehro, Employment Attorney, Global, Ogletree Deakins Law FIrm

Ms. Nehro is the Deputy to the Chair of the International Practice Group of Ogletree Deakins and is based in the firm’s Boston office. Ms. Nehro assists clients in efficiently and effectively managing international labor and employment issues in an ever-expanding global economy. Ms. Nehro has experience in advising multinational clients in connection with the establishment and management of international workforces, including the preparation and enforcement of personnel policies and employment agreements, compensation and benefits, litigation avoidance and strategy, as well as general...

Enrique Del Cueto-Perez, labor, employment, global, Ogletree Deakins Law FIrm

Enrique A. Del Cueto-Pérez is a full-time member of the International Practice Group of Ogletree Deakins, based in the firm’s Boston office, which assists multinational companies in efficiently and effectively managing labor and employment law issues in an ever-expanding global economy.

Ryan Correia, Associate, Ogletree Deakins Law Firm, employment law, global

Mr. Correia is an Associate Attorney in the International Practice Group of Ogletree Deakins, which provides worldwide labor and employment law support to over 100 countries. He has experience in the international field through internships in Brazil and The Netherlands where he worked on projects including an internal investigation of a Brazilian company regarding kickbacks and the drafting of incorporation agreements. Mr. Correia is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Portuguese and focuses his practice on Latin America. On the domestic side, he interned at Fish and Richardson, an...