Puerto Rico legislature looking at civil, labor law changes

by | Jul 15, 2018 | Puerto Rico | Comments

Changes to Puerto Rico’s Civil Code: Marriage, Divorce, and Inheritance Rights

On Monday, June 18, Representative Milagros Charbonier (NPP) presented a new project that aims to change Puerto Rico’s Civil Code. The bulk of the changes regarding the codes deal with matrimony and divorce. The new Civil Code will including language that recognizes marriage between the union of two people instead of only a man and a woman; raises the age of marriage from 16 to 18, and requires raising the parental permission age from 18 to 21. It also prohibits marriage between collateral relatives by consanguinity or adoption until the third degree, marriage between convicts as accomplices to the painful death of a spouse, marriage between the adulterer and the person they committed adultery with for at least five years, and the law gives no exceptions for underage marriage without parental consent for women who were violated, seduced, or became pregnant.

This law also adds requirements for marriage such as signing an affidavit attesting to one’s marital capacity which should include extensive information about the person to be married, the spouse’s parents, the marriage witness, and also, the wedding details, such as date, time, and place where the wedding will transpire. Spouses should also submit tests for STDs as part of their required medical exams. The bill reduces the number of divorce causes from eleven to only four: adultery, cruel treatment or serious insults, mutual consent, or an irreparable rupture.

Notably, this project extends the rights of the unborn and intends to accomplish this by making changes to inheritance rights. Nasciturus is a term used to designate future children of the couple and is distinct from nutus, a child already born from that marriage. In Law, there are several doctrines about the beginning of the individual personality. The draft mentions the eclectic theory of nasciturus, which considers birth to be the beginning of the personality while being conceived is the hope of becoming an individual person. This project aims to change the laws to support the theory of conception, which considers that the conceived already has an independent existence, and therefore, must be considered as a possible subject of individual rights even before being born.

Repeal of Law 80: Will Puerto Rico Head Towards At-Will Employment?

In continuation of the last Legislative Review, the repeal of the  Unjust Dismissal Law, known as Law 80, is at a standstill as Governor Ricardo Rosselló pushes to repeal it, while Senate President, Thomas Rivera Schatz, refuses to vote in favor of repealing it. New amendments were made in order to move the voting forward, such as creating a $100 million fund to compensate private workers who are dismissed. Senator Miguel Romero has proposed amending Act 100 (a law that combats issues of workplace discrimination) to include some protections that Law 80 bestows. This would include giving dismissed workers compensation that would correspond to their years of service. The controversy surrounding repealing Law 80 has been further provoked by local news pointing out that certain government officials have guaranteed dismissal allowances, such as Secretary of Education Julia Keleher, and the Executive Director of the Oversight Board, Natalie Jaresko.

The Center for Economic Policy Research published a study titled “Puerto Rico’s New Fiscal Plan: Certain Pain, Uncertain Gain,” in which its authors, Lara Merlin and Kake Johnston, warned that the repeal of the law “would further contribute to the increased out-migration of workers” and that “it would appear misguided to blame high labor costs for the lack of jobs, when it is overall already much cheaper to hire Puerto Rican workers, despite mandated benefits.”