The beginning of a new year provides an opportunity to reflect on past activities and look forward to the future.
As 2012 came to an end with most Americans getting ready to sing “Auld Lang Syne,” attention in Washington was focused on avoiding the “fiscal cliff”—making sure that Congress and President Obama addressed the combination of automatic federal tax increases and spending reductions that were to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. During the fiscal cliff debate, SHRM led the congressional advocacy effort to extend employer-provided education assistance, which has been a temporary tax benefit in danger of expiring. SHRM’s efforts paid off. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (P.L.112-240), which was signed into law by President Obama on Jan. 2, made employer-provided educational assistance a permanent part of the tax code!
SHRM was very active throughout 2012 on a variety of important public policy issues affecting the HR profession directly. Listed below is our Top 10 Achievements for 2012:
1. Saving Employer-Provided Educational Assistance – As mentioned above, SHRM led the advocacy effort for a permanent extension of Section 127 that was signed into law as part of the American Taxpayer Act of 2012.
2. Extending Employer Credit for Day Care Facility Expenses – SHRM supported an extension of a provision that provides employers a tax credit of up to $150,000 for acquiring, constructing, rehabilitating or expanding property used for a child care facility. The provision was extended as a part of the American Taxpayer Act of 2012.
3. Improving and Extending the E-Verify Program – SHRM and the American Council on International Personnel (ACIP) supported a three-year extension of the E-Verify program, including improvements to the program. As part of the effort, SHRM and ACIP succeeded in getting into the Congressional Record a joint-statement by Reps. Sam Johnson (R-TX) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) that called on the government to address identity theft and fraud in the program and to integrate the electronic I-9 into the E-Verify system. The extension was included in the Temporary Immigration Programs (P.L. 112-176).
4. Passing the STEM Act – SHRM worked with ACIP on House passage of the STEM Act, which would make employment-based green cards more easily available to foreign-born, advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates from U.S. universities. The bill passed the House of Representatives in November, but was not considered by the Senate.
5. Preserving Employer Flexibility in Compensation Decisions – SHRM worked with other groups to oppose the Senate’s Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have restricted significantly the factors HR professionals could use to compensate their employees. The Senate was unable to invoke cloture on the measure by a vote of 52 to 47.
6. Improving Criminal Checks Guidance – SHRM worked with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on guidance on the use of the criminal reports in the employment process. The guidance was modified significantly based on SHRM’s input.
7. Preventing Unfair Rules for Federal Contractors – SHRM submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture opposing proposed regulations that could have resulted in federal contractor organizations being disbarred for labor law violations. The proposed regulation was withdrawn.
8. Maintaining Guidance on Legal Compensation Practices – The U.S. Department of Labor had proposed rescinding both the Systemic Compensation Discrimination Standards and Voluntary Guidelines for Compensation Self-Evaluation. Based on SHRM’s input, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced that it will not rescind existing guidance until new guidance is put in place.
9. Fighting the ‘Quickie Election’ Rule – SHRM submitted comments, provided testimony and submitted an amicus brief opposing the proposed regulation to expedite representation elections. The United States District Court overturned the proposed regulation on procedural grounds. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has appealed to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case is still pending.
10. Preventing New Posting Mandate – SHRM submitted comments and an amicus brief opposing the NLRB-proposed regulation requiring employers to post a notice of employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The U.S. District Courts in D.C. and South Carolina ruled that the NLRB lacked the authority to issue the regulation. The NLRB appealed the ruling to the Fourth Circuit, where it is now pending.
There’s More Work to Do in 2013
While Washington dispatched one element of the fiscal cliff, the 113th Congress and President Obama still have to focus on including defecit reduction, tax reform and immigration reform. In particular, decisions on how to bring down the federal deficit, reform the tax code and address our nation’s immigration system will have a direct impact on employees and employers. In addition, President Obama’s second-term regulatory agenda will have a significant impact on the workplace. As the voice of the HR profession, SHRM will be at the forefront of these policy discussions advocating for effective workplace policies.
Raise Your HR Voice – Advocacy is Not a Spectator Sport!
Advocacy is not a spectator sport. In order To make a difference in local communities, state houses and in Washington, our HR voices must be heard. This is particularly true in 2013! SHRM’s many legislative and regulatory successes this year would not have been possible without the support of SHRM members. For example, almost 1,000 SHRM members participated in Capitol Hill Advocacy days in Washington, D.C., meeting with their elected officials. Their involvement in public policy issues affecting the profession not only raises the visibility of HR on Capitol Hill, but also helps to create effective workplace policy.
This is an important time for our profession’s voice to be heard in the corridors of Congress and SHRM needs your help! We must amplify our HR voice by educating and informing lawmakers of how proposals may affect the workplace and/or workforce. Our unique professional experiences and workplace expertise will play a vital role in shaping future HR public policy.
One way in which you can get an early start in reaching out to the 113th Congress is by participating in the annual SHRM Employment Law & Legislative Conference, which will be held March 10-13, 2013, at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Can’t join us in Washington? Consider becoming a member of the SHRM Advocacy Team, or “A-Team.” The Advocacy Team is a crucial component of SHRM’s advocacy efforts, and works with you to advance the interests of the HR profession at both the federal and state levels. As a team member, you will join the ranks of other HR advocates committed to moving the HR profession forward, and be the voice of our profession. To learn more about the A-Team, click HERE.
For questions about the duties of an Advocacy Captain or HR Advocate in supporting SHRM’s advocacy efforts, please contact David Lusk, SHRM’s Senior Associate for Member Advocacy, at 703-535-6158 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chatrane Birbal, SHRM’s Senior Specialist for Member Advocacy at 703-535-6476 or email@example.com.