Puerto Rico Meat Market Agrees to Change its Hiring and Recruitment Practices

Puerto Rico Meat Market Agrees to Change its Hiring and Recruitment Practices

Many United States companies incorrectly treat operations in Puerto Rico as extra-jurisdictional and “different” than the way they conduct business in the United States. The reasoning behind this is the fact that Puerto Rico has a complicated political status, in that it is an unincorporated territory of the United States. Even though U.S. federal laws such as Title VII, FLSA, ERISA and others have full force and effect within Puerto Rico, the territory has its own [very employee friendly] laws and statutes that have key differences from the way employment law operates on the mainland. This obviously complicates the crafting of policy and procedure within that jurisdiction. For example, the much adhered-to principle of “employment at will” on the mainland is not the law on the island.

What does all of this mean? As with any multi-jurisdictional business, employers need to be very careful with how they craft their policies and procedures. Merely crafting “one-size-fits-all” employment policies is absolutely a recipe for disaster. When your business expands outside your home state, territory, or country, you are asking for trouble if you do not take a careful look at the way you are doing things to ensure that those policies comply with the law in the place you have employees working. The following example highlights the need to keep careful track of policies because failure to do so can prove very costly.

On July 24, 2017, an international meat market with a facility in San Juan, Puerto Rico agreed to a settlement with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requiring the company to pay an unspecified monetary amount to unsuccessful job applicants and revise its policy for recruitment and hiring to prevent Age Discrimination in its workplace. In addition to the federal age discrimination violations, there were also several key provisions of Puerto Rico law that appeared to have been violated by the defendant’s former hiring practices.

By failing to pay attention to the fact that U.S. federal law applies in Puerto Rico, and further ignoring the complicated and employee friendly Puerto Rico employment laws, the company operating the meat market opened itself to a variety of lawsuits and agency investigations that culminated in a multi-year EEOC investigation into discriminatory hiring practices by this employer in Puerto Rico. Had the meat market merely done a careful review of the laws in place (rather than treat Puerto Rico as a “wild” and “lawless” territory), it is very likely it could have spared itself a significant amount of monetary damages and public shame as a result of the practices it put in place.

It is always a good idea to implement careful training programs for managers who craft policies that are impacted by federal law. As part of its suite of employment law and human resources courseware, Syntrio provides online courses covering interviewing and hiring, employment discrimination training,  and a variety of other topics critical to managing your business within the complicated laws governing employment in the United States and its territories. We invite you to contact us at your convenience to learn more!

 Do you have questions about your current anti-harassment, anti-discrimination or code of conduct training program? Contact us and we can work with you to make recommendations to augment and/or improve your current offering.

Syntrio is a leader in both the ethics and compliance field, as well as human resources and employment law, and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of compliance violations within the organization. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!


Written by Jon Gonzalez,  Esq., Chief Legal Counsel

Posted in Code of Conduct, Compliance Training, Ethics, Ethics, Managing Within the Law and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , .