Almost one year on from the enactment of Law 13467/17 (the labour reform), early feedback suggests that the reform has proved to be an effective and positive change. In particular, the reform has increased the use of remote workers, reduced the imbalance of power between employers and employees, made union contributions voluntary and reduced the number of labour-related lawsuits.
When the labour reform came into force, it amended the provision requiring employees to pay annual contributions to relevant unions, instead making union contributions optional. After the reform was enacted, more than 15,000 lawsuits were filed to challenge union contribution-related matters. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the end of mandatory union contributions was constitutional.
The recent labour and employment reform enacted in Brazil has introduced important changes to labour and employment relations. One of the principal changes is the introduction of arbitration for the resolution of employment disputes. Although the changing law requires a change of mindset, employers should take advantage of it and begin to consider the possibility of instituting arbitration for certain employment contracts.
In Brazil, employees who work overtime are entitled to statutory premium pay at one-and-one-half times the regular rate. In the past, the courts often voided compensatory time off agreements and granted overtime payment claims to employees on the grounds that their employer had failed to comply with legal requirements. However, the 2017 labour reform introduced more flexible requirements, which should curb litigation on compensatory time off agreements and encourage their use.
The discussion regarding the legal nature of awards is not new to Brazilian labour courts, especially because amounts paid as awards could be considered salary, obliging the employer to include the award in the employee's salary and pay him or her every month or include this amount as a basis for determining the employee's labour rights. The legislative branch has tried to clarify this matter, defining the legal nature of awards, as well as the concept and legal criteria for their application.
The new year started with a new government taking office. Naturally, this has led many to speculate what the government's priorities and policies will be. In particular, enforcement policies are receiving more attention than during previous inaugurations, largely due to the widespread corruption scandal following Operation Car Wash and the appointment of Sergio Moro (former lead judge overseeing Operation Car Wash) as the minister of justice.
The Superior Court of Justice recently appraised a noticeable theme regarding personal data protection from a criminal law perspective: the validity of police evidence obtained from smartphones without a specific judicial order to do so. The precedent has had a strong effect on investigations of varying scope and importance. Two recent examples occurred in the wake of high-profile anti-corruption and anti-money laundering investigations.
A recent review has detailed the limited application of corporate criminal liability and the indirect legal consequences that companies may face following criminal investigations targeting individuals. Corporations may face harsh administrative and civil penalties for business crimes which only individuals can be held liable for. This is especially true where cross-border investigations result in white collar crime regulations becoming increasingly denationalised and tougher than ever before.
Brazilian law's limited establishment of corporate criminal liability does not mean that companies cannot be seriously affected by criminal law enforcement and subject to an extensive range of substantive and procedural matters. Companies' executive boards are not always prepared for such matters, which – especially when criminal investigations attract considerable media attention – can also raise serious and costly reputational issues.
After years of extensive anti-corruption investigations launched by Operation Car Wash, the national and international legal community have recognised that Brazil's enforcement of regulatory and criminal matters has become stronger than ever. While work is still needed, it is clear that the use of settlements and plea deals in Brazil is here to stay and that these methods have radically changed the local enforcement landscape.