Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez recently signed into law Puerto Rico’s new Electoral Code, Act No. 58 of June 20, 2020 (Act No. 54-2020). The Electoral Code includes noteworthy changes to employees’ voting rights.
Specifically, Article 5.1, section 17 of the Electoral Code states that all public- and private-sector employees who are registered voters, scheduled to work on a voting date, and whose schedules coincide with the opening hours of the polling places, have a right to request the opportunity to vote by mail or in a voting center that allows individuals to vote in advance. Employees who cannot anticipate their work schedule on a voting date prior to the deadline to request such voting in advance will be entitled to a two-hour paid leave during the workday to vote. Under the Electoral Code, “voting” includes primaries and other electoral events, such as the ones that began on August 9, 2020 and have not yet concluded.
In contrast, the previous Electoral Code, enacted pursuant to Act No. 78 of June 1, 2011, required employers to give their employees necessary and reasonable unpaid time off during the workday to vote in general elections or primaries.
Employers should keep this change in mind when scheduling employees during voting dates. While the law requires two hours of paid voting leave in the circumstances discussed above, two hours may not be enough to carry out the right to vote for some employees, depending on their assigned polling place and the workplace location. Thus, employers should make plans with their employees in anticipation of voting dates to avoid or lessen any disruption to the business’ operations.
Employers are also encouraged to review and update their workplace handbooks to take these changes into account.