• The Star Staff

Legislation to ban bullying in workplace approved by Senate

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rico Senate has approved House Bill 306, legislation that would ban workplace bullying.

Penned by House Rep. José Enrique Meléndez, the bill, approved in the special session last week, would declare as public policy a ban against bullying on the job and would define procedures, prohibitions and sanctions to deal with the problem.

In addition, the bill empowers the Department of Labor and Human Resources, the Office of Administration and Transformation of Human Resources, and the legislative and judicial branches to adopt and publish the necessary regulations to manage and implement the new public policy against workplace bullying.

The measure defines workplace harassment as repeated verbal, written or physical abusive conduct by the employer, its supervisors or employees, outside the legitimate interests of the employer’s company.

The bill explains that, as experts on the subject have established, workplace harassment involves a hostile and unethical communication that is systematically administered by one or several individuals, mainly against a single individual who is thrown into a situation of solitude and prolonged helplessness, based on frequent, persistent acts of harassment over a long period of time.

The measure warns that, although in Puerto Rico there is no specific legislation that regulates the practice of harassment in the context of the workplace, this does not prevent employers from incurring civil liability for injurious conduct under the Puerto Rico Civil Code.

The new law will apply to all employees, regardless of their job status.

The proposed legislation would make employers who commit, promote or allow workplace harassment, liable for the problem.

Every employer will be required to take the needed steps to ensure the workplace is free from workplace harassment.

For employers who have signed collective agreements with their employees under the Puerto Rico Labor Relations Act, the Labor Relations Act for Public Services, and the Federal Labor Relations Act -- all of which contain clauses that prohibit workplace harassment in their workplaces -- it will be understood that they have complied with the obligation imposed by the proposed law.

All employers will always be responsible for the actions of supervisory personnel under their charge unless they can prove that they took immediate action to correct the problem. If the employer shows that he or she has taken immediate and appropriate actions to correct the situation, he or she will enjoy immunity against claims under the provisions of the law.

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