Mexico Reforms Federal Labor Law | México Reforma la Ley Federal del Trabajo

by Morgan Lewis
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[authors: Mark E. Zelek, Humberto Padilla Gonzalez, and Rodrigo Dominguez Sotomayor]

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Amendments address several legal loopholes and will substantially affect labor relationships in the country.

During his last day in office, President Felipe de Jesús Calderón enacted a number of major amendments (the Labor Reform) to Mexico's Federal Labor Law (Ley Federal del Trabajo)(the FLL), which dates back to the 1970s. The Labor Reform had become a critical matter in Mexico's legislative agenda, as the FLL was outdated in many material respects. Although many believe there is room for additional improvement, the amendments address several legal loopholes and will substantially and positively affect labor relationships in Mexico.

The Labor Reform was published in Mexico's Federal Official Gazette (Diario Oficial de la Federación) on November 30, 2012, and became effective on December 1, 2012. Below is a summary of some of the most important aspects of the Labor Reform.

Expansion of Types of Employment

Perhaps the most important change to the FLL, from an employer's perspective, will be the expansion of the types of employment relationships that are allowed. In addition to the already existing contracts for an indefinite term or a specific project, the Labor Reform introduces the seasonal employment modality, which allows for short-term employment to cover the need for additional workforce requirements during in-demand seasonal peaks, and the temporary employment contract, which allows for short-term employment to cover immediate needs.

In addition, the Labor Reform allows employers to utilize (i) trial periods and (ii) initial training periods, during which employers will have the ability to assess whether candidates have the required knowledge or skills to perform their duties. In those cases where candidates do not meet the required knowledge or skills, employers will have the ability (taking into consideration the opinion of a mixed employee-employer commission) to terminate them without paying penalties or mandatory severance. Trial periods will be limited to 3 months for rank-and-file workers and 6 months for management-level employees and high-level executives.

The U.S. concept of employment "at will" was not included in the Labor Reform and remains invalid in Mexico.

Outsourcing

Another keystone of the Labor Reform is the express regulation of personnel-outsourcing agreements. Importantly, the Labor Reform limits the applicability of employee outsourcing to specialized tasks that fall outside the beneficiary's ordinary course of business. In addition, it imposes joint employer liability on the beneficiary and the outsourcing company unless the relationship (i) is documented through an outsourcing agreement, (ii) does not cover all of the activities carried out in the workplace, (iii) is justified by its specialized nature, and (iv) does not cover tasks that are the same or similar to those performed by the beneficiary's employees.

Back Wages

Historically, labor courts in Mexico have been very protective of employees' rights and are often described as "employee friendly." One of the main concerns for employers in Mexico has been the manner in which disgruntled employees had, in many instances, abused the judicial system to slow down trials and accumulate back wages, which were previously uncapped and accrued until the employer had paid the applicable court ruling in full.

The Labor Reform addresses these concerns and places a 12-month cap on back wages (the Limitation Period). After the Limitation Period has expired, if an employee prevails in his or her claims against an employer, he or she will be entitled to collect 2% interest on back wages with a 15-month cap. The Labor Reform also suspends accumulation of back wages upon the death of the employee.

Hourly Wage

Another significant change resulting from the Labor Reform is the recognition of an hourly wage system, as opposed to the previous monthly wage system. This amendment allows employers and employees to explore alternative employment mechanisms as long as the maximum work shift is not exceeded (8 hours during day shifts, 7 hours during night shifts, and 7.5 hours for mixed shifts) and, at the very least, the minimum hourly wage and overtime hours are paid.

Harassment and Dismissal

The Labor Reform also adds sexual harassment and bullying to the list of justifiable causes for termination of a labor relationship in the FLL. The addition of these causes for termination represents an attempt to eradicate a practice that had been for years dismissed by many as a "cultural difference."

Paternity Leave

The Labor Reform introduces a mandatory paternity leave of five days' salary for male employees. This leave applies to adoption as well as birth.

Grandfathering of Preexisting Claims

Claims filed prior to the enactment of the Labor Reform will be grandfathered in under the provisions of the FLL previously in effect.

Implications

This legal reform is a positive step by the Mexican government toward stimulating job creation and providing greater certainty to employers on their legal and economic exposure when expanding their workforces. Companies should revisit their employment practices in Mexico to take advantage of, and ensure compliance with, these reforms. Employers that use outsourcing services to staff their operation in Mexico should review their existing practices and policies to ensure they comply with the new legal framework.

Contacts

If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis attorneys:

Miami
Mark Zelek

Houston
Humberto Padilla Gonzalez
Rodrigo Dominguez-Sotomayor

 

Las reformas atienden ciertas lagunas legales y afectarán en forma significativa las relaciones laborales en el país.

Durante su último día como presidente de México, Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa promulgó ciertas reformas (la Reforma Laboral) a la Ley Federal del Trabajo (la LFT), la cual fue originalmente promulgada en 1970. La Reforma Laboral se había convertido en un elemento crítico en la agenda legislativa en México toda vez que la LFT requería de actualizaciones en un gran número de temas. Aún y cuando en la opinión de muchos todavía hay espacio para mejorar la LFT, la Reforma Laboral atiende ciertas lagunas legales y tendrá un efecto positivo e importante en las relaciones laborales en México.

La Reforma Laboral fue publicada en el Diario Oficial de la Federación en México el 30 de noviembre de 2012, y entró en vigor el 1 de diciembre de 2012. A continuación encontraran un resumen de los aspectos más relevantes incluidos en la Reforma Laboral.

Expansión de los Tipos de Empleo

Probablemente uno de los cambios más importantes a la LFT, desde el punto de vista del patrón, es la expansión en los tipos de empleo reconocidos por la LFT. En forma adicional a los contratos por tiempo indefinido o proyecto especifico anteriormente en existencia, la Reforma Laboral introduce la modalidad de empleo de temporada, la cual permite el empleo a corto plazo para cubrir necesidades de personal durante incrementos de demanda en temporadas altas, y empleo temporal, que permite la contratación de personal a corto plazo para cubrir necesidades inmediatas.

Asimismo, la Reforma Laboral permite que los patrones hagan uso de (i) periodos de prueba y (ii) periodos de entrenamiento inicial, durante los cuales tendrán la posibilidad de evaluar el conocimiento y cualidades de los candidatos para realizar las labores del puesto correspondiente. En aquellos casos donde los candidatos no cumplan con el conocimiento o cualidades necesarias, los patrones podrán (habiendo escuchado la opinión de un comité empleado-patronal) dar por terminada la relación de trabajo sin incurrir en penalización alguna o requerirse el pago de la indemnización constitucional prevista en la LFT. Los periodos de prueba están limitados a 6 meses para el caso de empleados con funciones gerenciales y ejecutivos de alto nivel y a 3 meses para el resto de los trabajadores.

La modalidad de empleo discrecional o "at will" no fue reconocida por la Reforma Laboral y es inválida en México.

Prestación de Servicios de Personal (Outsourcing)

Otro punto importante de la Reforma Laboral es la regulación expresa de los contratos de prestación de servicios de personal. La Reforma Laboral limita la aplicabilidad de dichos contratos a tareas especializadas que se encuadren fuera del curso ordinario de los negocios del beneficiario final. Adicionalmente, impone responsabilidad solidaria entre el beneficiario final y la empresa de prestación de servicios de personal (outsourcing company) a menos que la relación (i) este documentada a través de un contrato por escrito, (ii) no cubra la totalidad de los servicios que se lleven a cabo en el lugar de trabajo, (iii) esté justificada por su naturaleza especializada, y (iv) no cubra tareas que sean iguales o similares a aquellas realizadas por los empleados del beneficiario final.

Salarios Caídos (Back Wages)

Históricamente, las juntas de conciliación y arbitraje, y en general las cortes en México, han adoptado una postura proteccionista respecto a los trabajadores y son descritas continuamente como "amigables" en relación con los mismos. Una de los temas más preocupantes para los patrones en México siempre ha sido la manera en que empleados descontentos han, en varias instancias, abuzado el sistema judicial para alargar litigios y acumular salarios caídos, los cuales anteriormente estaban ilimitados y eran acumulativos hasta que el patrón hubiera satisfecho totalmente sus obligaciones conforme hubiera sido sentenciado.

La Reforma Laboral atiende esas preocupaciones y establece un límite de 12 meses a los salarios caídos (el Límite Legal). Una vez concluido el plazo del Límite Legal, en el caso de que el empleado tenga éxito en sus reclamaciones frente al patrón, podrá recolectar intereses a una tasa del 2% sobre los salarios caídos que se adeudasen con un límite de 15 meses. La Reforma Laboral también suspende la acumulación de salarios caídos en caso de muerte del trabajador.

Salario por Hora

Otro cambio significativo resultante de la Reforma Laboral es el reconocimiento de un sistema de salario por hora, en contraste del sistema de salario mensual anteriormente utilizado. Este cambio permite a empleados y patrones explorar mecanismos alternativos de empleo siempre y cuando la jornada laboral máxima no exceda los límites permitidos por ley (8 horas durante la jornada diurna, 7 horas durante la jornada nocturna, y 7.5 horas para jornadas mixtas) y, como mínimo, se pague el salario mínimo por hora y horas extras.

Acoso y Despido

La Reforma Laboral también adiciona el acoso sexual y hostigamiento como causa de terminación de las relaciones laborales conforme a la LFT. La inclusión de estas causas de terminación representa un continuo esfuerzo en México para erradicar prácticas que han sido desestimadas por muchos durante años como una "diferencia cultural."

Ausencia por Paternidad

La Reforma Laboral introduce la ausencia justificada de 5 días con goce de sueldo por paternidad. Esta ausencia aplica igualmente en el caso de nacimiento y adopción.

Inaplicabilidad en Reclamaciones Pre-existentes

Aquellos juicios que se hubieran iniciado con anterioridad a la entrada en vigor de la Reforma Laboral se regirán por las disposiciones anteriores de la LFT sin tomar en consideración la Reforma Laboral.

Implicaciones

Esta reforma legal representa un paso del gobierno Mexicano en la dirección correcta con la finalidad de estimular la creación de empleos y promover mayor certidumbre para los patrones en relación con los riesgos a los que están expuestos al expandir su base laboral. Los patrones deben reconsiderar sus prácticas y mecanismos de empleo en México para evitar riesgos, garantizar el cumplimiento con y aprovechar las ventajas que ofrece la Reforma Laboral. Asimismo, aquellos patrones que utilizan servicios de personal (outsourcing services) para operar sus negocios en México, deben reevaluar dicha práctica y las políticas existentes para garantizar el cumplimiento con las nuevas disposiciones incluidas en la Reforma Laboral.

Contactos

En caso de cualquier duda o si desea más información en relación con el material discutido en este LawFlash, por favor contacte a las siguientes personas en Morgan Lewis:

Miami
Mark Zelek

Houston
Humberto Padilla Gonzalez
Rodrigo Dominguez-Sotomayor

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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