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Biden’s State of the Union Address Points Out Several Employment Legislative Initiatives

March 9, 2022

By Michael Burns, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

In last week’s State of the Union address by President Biden, in addition to his opening focus on the Russian invasion he pointed out four legislative initiatives that he would like to see moved along in the coming months – probably before the mid-term elections if he had his way.

Paycheck Fairness Act – This bill has been around for a long time. In this version, Biden is asking that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) be given the green light to require employers to extensively report compensation data to the government.  This would be along the same lines as the EEO-1 component 2 reporting where employers had to provide additional compensation data as part of their annual EEO-1 reporting. This will no doubt be part of employers’ (who are over 100 employment in size) annual reporting obligations.

Compensation professionals roundly criticized the last EEO-1 compensation reporting program as little less than meaningless data that could not readily be used by anybody other than government officials searching for a complaint to charge or plaintiffs’ attorneys looking for a lawsuit to file and pursue.

This bill would also restrict the use of the “factor other than sex” defense in wage discrimination complaints down to “bona fide, job-related factors”; the law would enhance non-retaliation prohibitions; it would prohibit non-disclosure employment terms that target salary and wage communications to others; and it increase penalties violation of equal pay law.

Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO) – This proposed legislation has also been pending in Congress for a while but in various bits and pieces that under the PRO act collectively would bring about the biggest pro labor balance shift to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) since the labor law’s inception back thin the 1930’s. The current NLRA as amended seeks to create a balance between employers and employees around organizing rights while protecting workers’ right to organize and when unionized, exercise collective bargaining rights. Since Labor can’t seem to get their organizing act together even with pro union administrations like the Obama and Biden Administrations doing everything they can to organize for them, the PRO act would do things such as take away representation elections if a “card check” showed a majority in favor of a union, force collective bargaining agreements on employers and their employees without the mutual consent of the parties and implement fines and even criminal penalties on employers that are found in violation of certain labor laws.

Over the weekend it was reported by and just one local TV station that the President and his Labor Secretary Marty Walsh reportedly met with up to 39 union presidents at a meeting outside of Washington DC. This meeting was not announced before hand by the White House, and it appears that the media was excluded from this meeting. A one-page memo for the White House on this event was published afterword.  The press release on this meeting stated nothing more than the President and his Labor Secretary had met with “labor leaders to discuss issues impacting union members and how the administration can help support working Americans.” 

PAID Family and Medical Leave – President Biden also mentioned in his State of the Union address that he would like Congress to pass paid family and medical leave that would provide at least four weeks of pay for leaves already outlined by the  current Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Full paid leave has been pushed for law ever since the passing of the original FMLA law in 1994.

$15 Minimum Wage – Biden continues his push for $15 minimum wage rate that he has already implemented for federal employees and some government contractors by Executive Order last year. The proposed legislation has been known as the Raise the Wage Act. This bill proposes to raise the current $7.25/hour current minimum wage to $15/hour incrementally over several years. It would also eliminate the tip credit.

In most of the above legislative initiatives the Democrat held House of Representatives has already passed a version of those laws. However, the now narrowly split Senate has not been able to pass these bills, and thanks to a few Democrats the Republicans, currently can hold back passage of these laws in the Senate. If they could be passed today by the Senate, President Biden would sign them by this afternoon.

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