Costa Rica modified its Labor Code and those provisions are now in effect. The law modified over 200 articles of the Costa Rican Labor Code which has been in effect since 1943. Among some of the changes to the Labor Code are as follows:
- Any type of discrimination is prohibited.
- Equal protection to all workers who carry out their work in similar conditions. They all must have equal rights as to working hours and pay scale without any discrimination.
- The jurisdiction for labor disputes shall be the court where the place of employment is located or the domicile of the worker that is filing the lawsuit. The worker has the option to choose between the two options when filing a labor lawsuit.
- In any lawsuit related to maternity leave the Costa Rican Instititue for Child Welfare (PANI) must be a party in the process. The PANI must provide the worker with free legal assistance.
- Workers who earn less than 902,000 Colones (Approx $1,582) per month have the right to free legal representation in labor claims which shall be covered by the government.
- In the case of a firing for cause the Employer may only allege at trial the justification provided in the termination letter that was delivered to the worker when they were terminated.
- The legality or illegality of a call to strike must be resolved by the Judicial Court System (Poder Judicial). If the parties agree they can submit the matter to a judicial arbitration panel for resolution.
- It opens the conciliation process between employer-employee so that they can conciliate at the Ministry of Labor in the administrative phase as well as at alternative dispute resolution centers without having to go to court.
- The labor lawsuit will now be heard in orally which is expected to reduce the time it currently takes to litigate a labor dispute from 3 + years down to 6 months to 1 year.
- The 8 hour work day is strictly enforced. Any employee working more than 8 hours a day are entitled to overtime pay for any additional time worked.
It certainly seems like some of these changes, particularly the one that allows any individual earning less than 902,000 Colones ($1,582) per month to request a government appointed lawyer to represent them for free is going to be a boom for lawyers. However, that will be at the expense of the Costa Rican taxpayer and the Employer. In any proceeding based on the Labor Code the burden of proof falls on the Employer since all cases are ruled upon in the light most favorable to the employee.
You can view the full text of the law in Spanish below: