A Look Ahead at the Federal Agencies and Regulatory Landscape for 2017

By Nancy Hammer Jan 13, 2017
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This week marks the beginning of confirmation hearings on President-elect Donald Trump's choices to run several of the federal agencies and for cabinet posts. Confirmation hearings for both Senator Jeff Sessions' (R-AL) nomination for attorney general and Rex Tillerson's appointment for Secretary of State began this week. One nomination of particular interest to the HR community will be that of Andrew Puzder, nominated to serve as head of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants (which includes Carl's Jr. and Hardee's), originally was scheduled for a confirmation hearing in January, but that has now been delayed until early February.

The incoming Trump administration has clearly stated that one of its priorities will be to ease regulatory burdens on employers and freeze the creation of new rules. Once the executive branch leadership is in place, there will be a focus on rolling back some of the Obama administration's regulations promulgated during the past eight years. Priorities will likely include a focus on the overtime regulation that raised the minimum salary level to qualify for exemption from the overtime rules. Implementation of the overtime rule is currently enjoined as a result of a legal challenge, but awaits a final decision. Depending on the result of the lawsuit, a Trump DOL would likely fast-track this issue for new rulemaking to undo the salary increase.

Another priority is likely to be taking a close look at President Barack Obama's executive orders, which the incoming administration can more easily reverse since issuing a revised executive order does not require additional notice and comment rulemaking. These executive orders are likely to include many that targeted the federal contractor community such as the paid-sick-leave mandates for federal contractors and the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order which would require federal contractors to report alleged violations of 14 different federal labor laws and their state equivalents. Other rules placing mandates on the contracting community are also likely to be targeted by the Trump administration.

New agency leadership also yields new priorities for the respective agencies, as well as new approaches to enforcement. While it is possible that employers under the Trump administration may face fewer regulations, other priorities—particularly those relating to immigration enforcement—are certain to be a focus of the new administration.

In addition, expect changes in the focus and priorities of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). President-elect Trump will have the ability to appoint new members to each of these bodies and control who chairs the EEOC and the NLRB, resulting in a Republican majority for each.

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