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U.S. Department of Labor and Puerto Rico Department of Labor Enter into Partnership Agreement

  • October 19, 2010

The United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and the Puerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources, Labor Standards Division, have entered into a partnership agreement aimed at ensuring compliance by employers in Puerto Rico with both federal and commonwealth labor laws that apply on the Caribbean island.

“Puerto Rico’s workers deserve to be protected fully by the labor laws that are enforced by both the federal government and by the commonwealth,” said José Vazquez, director of the federal Wage and Hour Division’s Caribbean District Office. He continued, “This agreement simply seeks to ensure that goal by formalizing cooperation and the exchange of information between the two agencies.”

Under the new partnership, announced on October 14, the two labor departments plan to conduct joint investigations of private employers’ operations in Puerto Rico when there is cause to believe that employers are not in compliance with federal or local wage laws. Investigators from both departments will be cross-trained about the laws and regulations enforced by both agencies.

The Wage and Hour Division is responsible for administering and enforcing federal labor laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, worker protections provided in several temporary visa programs, and the prevailing wage requirements of the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts and the Service Contract Act. Puerto Rico’s Labor Standards Division is responsible for administering and enforcing Puerto Rico’s labor laws relating to minimum wage, overtime, student learners, child labor, workers with disabilities, and equal pay.

Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States, has adopted the federal minimum wage as its own.  However, overtime is payable under local laws not just for hours worked in excess of 40 in a week, as under the FLSA, but also for hours worked over eight in one day.

United States employers doing business in Puerto Rico should be aware of the different requirements of the federal and the commonwealth wage and hour laws in order to achieve compliance with both. Increased scrutiny of employer compliance is likely as a result of the new partnership between the federal and commonwealth wage and hour agencies.

Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to answer inquiries regarding this and other workplace developments.

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