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Immigration reform, the Working Families Flexibility Act and the Affordable Care Act are among the many public-policy issues before the 114th Congress that affect employers and their workforces. It’s imperative that HR professionals keep abreast of such policies and federal regulatory activity, said Michael P. Aitken, the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) vice president of government affairs, during his keynote address opening the 2015 SHRM Employment Law & Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. on March 23.
Paid leave. Under the proposed Healthy Families Act (H.R. 932 and S. 497), nearly all employers would be required to provide employees with up to 56 hours of paid sick time in a calendar year. Additionally, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act is expected to be reintroduced. SHRM does not expect either bill to advance in Congress. SHRM supports the proposed Working Families Flexibility Act (H.R. 465 and S. 233), which would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to allow private-sector employers to provide compensatory time for nonexempt employees in the private sector. This would give employers the option of offering their hourly employees the choice of compensatory time off or pay for overtime hours worked. SHRM plans to support this bill as it moves through Congress.
Union representation. The National Labor Relations Board’s so-called ambush election rule amends representation election procedures. Scheduled to take effect April 14, 2015, it expedites the period of time between filing of the NLRB election petition for union representation and the election itself.
A SHRM member appeared before the House Education and the Workforce Committee in March 2014 and before the NLRB in April 2014 to speak against the proposed rule. Additionally, 96 SHRM state councils and chapters and more than 4,600 individual members submitted comments to the NLRB during the comment period, and SHRM filed a lawsuit on Jan. 5, 2015, challenging the rule’s legality.
However, efforts to block the rule are expected to encounter a presidential veto.
Overtime regulation. In March 2014, the president directed the Department of Labor (DOL) to modernize and simplify the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime regulations under the act’s Section 541. The DOL is expected to release the proposed rule by the first quarter of 2015. It is unclear what changes will be proposed, Aitken noted, but among SHRM’s concerns is that a substantial number of employees in a variety of industries who now are classified as exempt from overtime requirements would become subject to overtime requirements.
Health care reform. The proposed Save American Workers Act (H.R. 30 and S. 30) would modify the definition of “full time” under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from 30 hours a week to 40 hours a week. SHRM supports the legislation, which passed the House in January 2015 and was referred to the Senate. The president has said he would veto the legislation.
Wellness programs. The proposed Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (H.R. 1189 and S. 620) is SHRM-supported legislation that would allow employers to offer financial incentives that reduce health insurance premiums for employees who participate in employer-sponsored wellness programs and would clarify that an employee’s spouse may participate. It also includes a timeframe for employees to request an alternative wellness program if it is unreasonably difficult or medically inadvisable to participate in the original program.
Immigration reform. The president signed an executive order in November 2014 granting temporary legal status to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants and said he would veto any attempt by Republican leaders in Congress to roll it back.
Aitken noted that it’s unlikely that Congress will move forward on comprehensive immigration reform. Instead, he said, he anticipates a series of focused immigration bills on border security, worksite enforcement and, possibly, green card reform.
SHRM is affiliated with the Council for Global Immigration, and the two groups have released a guide that outlines employer-endorsed solutions to modernizing the employment-based immigration system
SHRM’s 2015 Guide to Public Policy Issues
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