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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Agencies join efforts to monitor compliance with protocols against sexual harassment and violence

By The Star Staff

The Secretary of the Department of Labor and Human Resources (DTRH, for its Spanish initials), Gabriel Maldonado González, together with the Acting Women’s Advocate, Madeline Bermúdez Sanabria, signed a collaborative agreement to resume efforts that will allow each agency to enforce the duty of employers to comply with the requirement to enact protocols to handle domestic violence situations and the handling of sexual harassment cases in the workplace.

“Every employer has an obligation to protect their employees by fostering safe work environments and having the required guidelines to address situations that may put their workers and visitors to their company at risk,” said Maldonado González. “Therefore, this alliance with the Office of the Women’s Advocate (OPM, for its Spanish initials), which will be in effect until June 30, 2025, is important because it strengthens prevention and intervention efforts in cases of domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace.”

In compliance with the recent approval of Act No. 82-2022, which amended Act No. 17 of April 22, 1988 (Act 17), which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, the DTRH also published the Model Protocol for the Prevention and Handling of Sexual Harassment Cases on its website and the agency’s social networks. Under the new law, private employers must adopt the protocol published by the DTRH or adopt one equal to or higher than the minimum standards provided under the guidelines issued by the agency.

For his part, Bermúdez Sanabria highlighted the importance of this agreement in the fight to eradicate violence. “With this agreement, we strengthen efforts in the fight against violence against women in all scenarios while enacting public policy for their personal and labor empowerment. We thank the DTRH Secretary and his team for their commitment,” said the acting Women’s Advocate.

The collaborative agreement establishes that the Puerto Rico Occupational Safety and Health Administration (PR OSHA), attached to the DTRH, will be in charge, through routine inspections, of checking employers’ compliance with the enactment of both protocols. In fact, as part of the visits, it will hand out didactic material provided by OPM. It will also coordinate technical assistance for the development of the protocols. After this, employers will be given a deadline, and if they fail to comply, PR OSHA will refer the situation to OPM. This could result in administrative fines.

As part of the enforcement process, DTRH will provide a quarterly report to OPM on employers inspected and their compliance status. Annually the DTRH will receive updated data on the actions taken by the OPM to ensure compliance with these protocols. The agreement establishes the designation of the Liaison Officer of the Assistant Attorney General’s Office for Legal Affairs, Investigations, and Complaints, who, among other things, will serve as a liaison between the two agencies.

“At the DTRH, we will be active in guiding employers and employees on the protocols required by law, whose purpose is to ensure compliance with labor protection legislation and other laws enacted for the benefit of our citizens,” said Maldonado González.

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