Agency deponents find vague language in bill to create paid leave for menstruation
By John McPhaul
During a public hearing of the House Committee on Human Rights and Labor Affairs, chaired by Sen. Ana Irma Rivera Lassén, various government agencies expressed reservations regarding Senate Bill 1052, which seeks to create paid leave for menstruating women from the workplace for three days.
“Today we were receiving presentations from some state agencies that have to do with budget or with the same rights of people who work, also from civil society organizations,” Rivera Lassén said. “We are opening an important path in the discussion as public policy of the issue of menstruation and how it affects the rights of women and menstruating people in Puerto Rico, and the idea is to be able to continue to embrace and recognize rights and that it is not mere discrimination when facing situations that are natural to their body.”
In her turn, labor advocate Nahiomy Álamo said that “although the Explanatory Memorandum talks about dysmenorrhea and conditions related to menstruation, the operative text of the bill at no time indicates that the time that women and menstruating people may use should be to attend to pain or ailments related to menstruation or health conditions that aggravate its effects.”
Álamo, who was deposing on behalf of the island Department of Labor and Human Resources, also said that as the bill is written, leave can be used every month for the fact of being a woman regardless of whether you are menstruating.
“It is a special treatment for these people over the rest of the workers since they will have three days with monthly pay that do not have to be justified,” she said. “The bill also does not require that they be used consecutively, so they could be used at the discretion of the beneficiary at any time of the month and in a fragmented manner.”
In response to questions from Rivera Lassén, the labor advocate said the leave request must be justified.
“If you’re going to be paid three days a month [while not reporting to work] you must have a reason,” Álamo said. “The current text does not indicate this. The current wording is extremely general. It may [risk] unconstitutionality. It should be clear that this menstrual leave is due to menstruation. It is not clear from the text of the measure.”
In the same vein, Diocelyn Rivera, who was deposing on behalf of the Office of Human Resources Administration and Transformation (OATRH by its Spanish initials) expressed reservations about the measure as drafted.
“The OATRH considers that granting in the first place paid leave of three days per month to employees and menstruating people in the public service, without studies on the impact … is not a reasonable path or [one that is] adjusted to our present work environment.”
Upon hearing this, Rivera Lassén said she is “surprised that both depositions land in the same assessment of unconstitutionality.”