As we look toward 2017, Labor Law News caught up with GovDocs Compliance Counsel Anne Jakala to talk about some of the employment law trends we can expect in the new year.
What’s the overall view for employment laws in 2017?
Following the November elections, the fate of federal employment laws is up in the air as the incoming presidential administration takes shape and appoints new leadership to affected government agencies.
What we can do, however, is consider the new administration’s stance in the employment law space, as well as the actions of past administrations, to predict how things will shake out. With that perspective, we expect to see more action at the local level – cities and counties – and less movement from the federal government.
What are the biggest employment law trends by jurisdiction?
As we saw this year, the biggest trends are the explosive growth of minimum wage and paid sick leave laws, particularly in cities and counties.
Cities and Counties
Unlike higher levels of government, local jurisdictions can pass and update laws at a faster pace. In 2017, more cities and counties will enact new minimum wage laws, while others will increase the rates of current ones – with some major cities moving toward $15 per hour.
Similarly, they will continue to introduce new or expand existing paid sick leave laws to include more leave types, like caring for a family member.
States will also move toward higher minimum wage rate laws in 2017, at a slightly slower pace than local jurisdictions.
However, like cities and counties, more states will continue to adopt paid sick leave laws, as well as expand existing laws with additional leave types.
Will the federal minimum wage increase or change? At this point, it’s unclear. If so, it wouldn’t occur until at least halfway into the new administration’s term.
Similarly, there’s a chance the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may expand to include paid leave, but would happen later in the term and most likely be limited in scope. States, cities and counties, as already discussed, can fill the gap, passing and enhancing their respective paid sick leave laws.
What other federal employment laws might be affected in 2017?
We see a few potential areas for impact.
First, E-Verify – the online system that allows businesses to determine eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S. – may be required nationwide as part of the new administration’s immigration plan. This, along with other “right to work” laws may occur early in the term.
Discrimination and equal pay related activity, however, may quiet down. As an example, we’ve monitored a possible update to the EEO is the Law posting, which falls under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but are now unsure if and when that will happen.
In addition, joint employer initiatives, a focus of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), may also decline. Joint employment – which affects franchisees – exists when an employee is employed by two (or more) employers such that the employers are responsible, both individually and jointly, to the employee for compliance with a statute.
How will these impact states or local jurisdictions, if at all?
Overall, we may see an increase in equal pay laws, as well as more types of discrimination laws, continuing this year’s trend.
At the state level, there may be some resistance to right-to-work laws. From a joint employer perspective, larger states, like New York, may establish stricter joint-employer definitions. And lastly, state gun laws may also increase.
2016 saw a lot of activity for federal contractor-specific employment laws. What are your thoughts on 2017?
Right now, we’re not sure what will happen with federal contractor laws in 2017. Here’s why.
The incoming administration has discussed plans to roll back federal regulations and President Obama’s Executive Orders, many of which were specific to federal contractors (e.g., minimum wage, paid sick leave, equal pay). With the fate of these in question, we don’t know how the new administration will handle them. Will they be revised or repealed? Or, will agencies, like the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), not enforce the current orders?
Our best guess is existing laws will be tweaked and unenforced.
Also, if federal laws, like minimum wage and paid sick leave, don’t move, they may have more success at the federal contractor level.
As with any type of prediction, what happens to employment laws in 2017 remains to be seen. We at GovDocs are looking forward to an informative, exciting year and will address these – and many other related topics – in Labor Law News throughout the year.
In the meantime, best wishes for a successful 2017!