Top 10 SHRM Advocacy Accomplishments for 2016

By Mike Aitken Dec 16, 2016

Before visions of sugar plums begin to dance in everyone's head, I wanted to take a moment and remember what a year 2016 has been for HR public policy.

While 2016 might go down as the most unique and unpredictable year in U.S. political history, it was another banner year for SHRM and our members in advancing the voice of the  HR profession on workplace issues to policymakers in Washington, D.C., and in state legislatures across the country. As the year comes to a close, I wanted to highlight SHRM's Top 10 accomplishments during a very busy and extremely successful year for SHRM advocacy.

1.      DOL Overtime Regulations—As the voice of HR, SHRM led the charge in response to the Department of Labor's (DOL's) overtime rule. A record number of SHRM Advocacy Team (A-Team) members advocated on behalf of the profession, explaining how the 100% increase went too far, too fast. SHRM members conducted 750 Capitol Hill visits, 50 in-district visits and sent 17,300 e-mails to Congress in support of legislation to phase in the overtime regulations. In addition, 51 SHRM State Councils sent a letter of support to Capitol Hill for legislation that would have phased in the increase. SHRM also chaired the Partnership to Protect Workplace Opportunity, a coalition of over a 100 employer groups leading the employer community's response to the overtime regulations. SHRM's advocacy efforts contributed to a public outcry from employers and employees, leading to a lawsuit and record advocacy with the administration and Capitol Hill. In the end, a federal court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the rule from becoming effective. SHRM welcomes the decision and believes the Trump administration will now have the opportunity to revisit the regulations. To learn about what's in store for the rulemaking, check out this podcast.

2.      A-Team/Advocacy Success—In 2016, SHRM's Advocacy Team reached unprecedented levels of issue advocacy and engagement. Specifically, dedicated efforts of over 650 A-Team Advocacy Captains (HR ambassadors to members of Congress) and over 8,800 HR Advocates directly advocated on workplace legislation and regulations this year—most notably on the recent changes to the Department of Labor's overtime regulations. SHRM's rapidly growing HR advocacy army also moved the needle on Capitol Hill by sending over 18,800 e-mail communications to Congress on critical policy issues and legislation through the HR Policy Action Center; engaging on social media; educating their lawmakers through hundreds of in-person legislative visits (Washington, D.C., district meetings); and continuing to be thought leaders and trusted resources for policymakers at all levels of government.

3.      2016 Employment Law & Legislative Conference—This past spring, SHRM and its affiliate, the Council for Global Immigration (CFGI), hosted over 500 HR professionals in Washington, D.C.. This year's event included exciting keynote speakers like Charlie Cook, editor, publisher and columnist; the Honorable Eric H. Holder Jr., 82nd Attorney General of the United States; Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup; Jenny Yang, chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. The conference concluded with a Capitol Hill Advocacy Day on March 16, with nearly 200 HR advocates conducting in-person meetings with their legislators and staffs.

4.      Advocating on HR Issues in the States—Members also advocated on workplace issues under consideration in state legislatures across the country. California SHRM led the way by advocating on 5 public policy issues in Sacramento this year, while taking 167 members to the state capitol for face-to-face meetings with their elected officials during their legislative conference in April. Maryland SHRM and Rhode Island SHRM, along with other dedicated HR professionals in other states, also advocated on a range of policy issues such as paid leave, predictive scheduling, expansions to the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the establishment of a voluntary employer preference to hire veterans. In addition, other SHRM state councils and chapters conducted outreach efforts in their respective states/communities on such timely HR policy issues as nondiscrimination for sexual orientation/gender identity, as well as "ban the box" and the use of criminal background checks in the hiring process.

5.      Reach Outs and Public Policy Forums—SHRM received over 130 proactive reach outs from Capitol Hill, the White House and federal agencies seeking HR's views on workplace issues in 2016 (compared to 110 in 2015). We anticipate that we will continue to receive such reach outs from Congress, federal agencies and the incoming Trump administration in 2017. In addition, SHRM members and staff participated in a whopping 19 public policy forums (hearings, public meetings, etc.) before Congress and the federal agencies on key workplace issues such as the impact of changes to the overtime rule on the workplace, reforming the Affordable Care Act and the use of background checks in the hiring process.

6.      Releasing SHRM's Principles for a 21st Century Workplace—At the SHRM 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition, SHRM and CFGI released our Principles for Creating a 21st Century Workplace that were supported by 51 SHRM state councils (including the District of Columbia). The principles are based on SHRM's 2016 Guide to Public Policy Issues and outline the issues that are critical to an innovative, fair and competitive workplace in the 21st century. Over 155 SHRM A-Team members and CFGI members representing delegations from 48 states delivered the principles to their members of Congress on a special Advocacy Day during the conference. The principles will continue to guide SHRM's advocacy efforts with the incoming Trump administration and the 115th Congress.

7.      A Banner Year for Regulatory Action—With the presidential election looming, the outgoing Obama administration sought to fulfill its policy goals through a robust use of executive orders and federal regulations. SHRM conveyed member concerns on eleven regulatory proposals yielding important revisions to a number of final rules. Key rules include the STEM/OPT (Optional Practical Training) rule in which CFGI/SHRM recommendations were incorporated, allowing employers to use existing training programs rather than creating new processes and to implement more reasonable guidelines for site visits. Similarly, successful agency and congressional testimony coupled with regulatory comments resulted in changes to the final EEO-1 compensation reporting rule so that employers need not report until 2018, allowing them the ability to synchronize the reporting of W-2 information with the existing EEO-1 reporting calendar. The incoming Trump administration may seek to undo these regulations before they become effective.

8.      Driving Onerous Regulations to Relief in Court—In addition to effective advocacy on the overtime regulations, resulting in the rule's preliminary injunction, SHRM played a key role in challenging the "persuader" rule and the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order, leading to court challenges of both. The persuader rule would have required that employers report about any professionals used to provide advice on communicating with employees about labor relations. SHRM also successfully advocated against the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order that would have required organizations seeking federal contracts to disclose any violations of 14 different federal labor laws and their state equivalents before being eligible to receive a contract. The rule is now enjoined by the court on a preliminary basis. Each of these regulations will likely be revisited or repealed by the incoming Trump administration.

9.      Leveraging the 2016 Party Conventions and Elections—SHRM and CFGI were the only human resources organizations that attended the RNC/DNC presidential conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia this past summer. SHRM and CFGI partnered with moderate Republican and Democratic organizations in order to elevate SHRM's brand, advance important HR public policy priorities and showcase SHRM as a thought leader on key workplace issues. We also held events with local state councils and chapters that brought together over 200 SHRM members at each location to discuss developments in workplace policy.

10.   Preserving the At-Will Employment Doctrine—SHRM and the Virginia SHRM State Council's intervention as amicus in the Virginia Supreme Court successfully preserved Virginia's at-will employment doctrine and prevented potential negative repercussions in other at-will employment states. SHRM successfully argued that any change to the at-will doctrine should be made by the legislature through legislation after full consideration of the social, economic and policy implications.

To those of you who participated in and supported SHRM's efforts in the items listed above, thank you, thank you and thank you again! Without your direct involvement in advancing the HR perspective on these many public policy issues, legislators and policymakers wouldn't have the benefit of HR's insight on how these issues will impact employees and their employers.

Without your direct involvement and support, many of these accomplishments would not have been possible. For that, we say THANK YOU just one more time.

We Wish You and Yours a Happy Holidays and a Safe and Productive 2017!


Michael P. Aitken

Vice President, Government Affairs

SHRM's Government Affairs Team  

(Mike Aitken, Chatrane Birbal, Bob Carragher, Kathleen Coulombe, Jason Gabhart, Nancy Hammer, Kelly Hastings, Lisa Horn, Meredith Nethercutt and Cassidy Solis)


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