7 August 20233 minute read

Puerto Rico: Act No. 54 amended to recognize economic violence as a form of domestic violence

Employers in Puerto Rico are encouraged to revise their domestic violence policies and trainings based on a recent amendment to Act No. 54 of August 15, 1989, the Domestic Abuse Prevention and Intervention Act (Act 54), to recognize economic violence as a form of domestic abuse and establish grounds to grant protection orders related to financial and labor situations.

On July 28, 2023, Puerto Rico Senate Project No. 865 of 2022 became Act No. 74-2023 (Act 74).  The new law amends Act 54, which establishes a set of measures aimed at preventing and combating domestic violence in Puerto Rico. The statute establishes various offenses, sets penalties, and authorizes courts to issue protection orders expeditiously.

Act 74 defines economic violence as:

…any conduct exercised in order to impair present or future financial capacity, economic stability, or housing and housing security through threats, coercion, fraud, restriction, or denial of access to or use of accounts, assets, financial information, identification or credit cards, money, or government assistance; concealment of information related to rent or mortgage payments, or forced evictions; exercising undue influence on a person’s decisions or behavior or financial and economic decisions, or interference in a person’s relationship or job performance or in his or her own business. It also includes misusing the person’s economic resources, including money, assets, and credit for personal gain, and preventing access to formal courses of study and impairing the victim’s academic performance.

It also adds “economic violence” to the definition of domestic abuse, which does not require proof of a pattern of conduct to be perpetrated.

In addition, Act 74 expands the power of courts to issue protection orders. Of particular interest to employers, it specifically allows for the issuance of protection orders to require a person to abstain from bothering, harassing, persecuting, intimidating, menacing, or interfering in any way with the employment activities of the petitioner, including actions aimed at damaging the petitioner’s professional reputation or stability.

Additionally, the courts can now issue protection orders to require a person to share financial information with the petitioner and abstain from misusing the petitioner’s money, goods, or credit information.

These amendments should be considered in light of the responsibilities of Puerto Rico employers under existing laws. Act No. 217-2006 requires employers to establish a protocol to manage domestic violence situations in the workplace and train personnel in order to guarantee a safe working environment; Act 54 authorizes employers to request a protection order on behalf of an employee in relation to domestic abuse occurring in the workplace; and antidiscrimination laws provide that being a victim of domestic violence or being perceived as such is a protected category.

For more information or assistance regarding this alert, please contact the authors or your preferred DLA Piper attorney.