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José J. Santiago
Carlos A. Padilla
Antonio L. García
Vol. 2016, No.2 February 8, 2016
PUERTO RICO SUPREME COURT HOLDS EMPLOYER LIABLE FOR PROVIDING INADEQUATE CONDITIONS FOR LACTATION
In Siaca v. Bahia Beach Resort & Golf Club, LLC 2016TSPR011 (2016) the Supreme Court held that the employer had violated the requirements of Act No. 427 of December 16, 2000, regarding the requirement that employers must provide lactating employees an adequate space to lactate and extract breast milk. The plaintiff worked in a site that was under construction and her lactation area was shifted several times to different trailers that lacked privacy or were removed from her work area, cutting into her lactation period. In addition some of the trailers were in poor conditions of hygiene.
Act 427 does not specify the requirements employers must meet regarding the places provided to lactating mothers. However, the Court concluded by analogy with other statutes, that employers must provide lactation places that are private, secure and hygienic. The Court noted that employers are not required to create or build specific structures to comply with the requirements of Act 427. In addition, the duty is subject to the availability of resources. The Court also found that the employer had violated Siaca’s right to privacy in the workplace.
In deciding allegations of non-compliance with the requirement of providing a private, secure and hygienic location for lactation, courts must examine whether the employer carried out reasonable efforts to comply with Act 427. The Court found that the employer had not carried out the simple, economical acts that could have brought it into compliance with the Act, including placing curtains or blocking the windows in the trailers to provide privacy and cleaning the trailers.
The Supreme Court reinstated the remedy of $50,000.00 for damages and returned the case to the Court of First Instance to determine the amount of the fine to be imposed. The Court also eliminated the payment of $10,000.00 for attorneys’ fees.
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