An Overview of Clinton’s Workplace Positions

By Allen Smith, J.D. Sep 20, 2016
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Hillary Clinton has made a number of promises about workplace law during her presidential campaign. Like the electorate, policy experts are divided in their opinions on her positions.

Clinton has promised to:

  • Increase the federal minimum wage to at least $12 per hour.
  • Support up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.
  • Seek to enact the Paycheck Fairness Act.
  • Defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
  • Support comprehensive immigration reform.
  • Uphold the overtime rule.

Minimum Wage

Raising the minimum wage is popular with voters, given that the current federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour, said Harry Holzer, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy. He added that proposals to raise the minimum wage "always pass, even in red states."

He believes that if a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10 were brought to the House of Representatives floor, it would pass, despite opposition from retailers and the hospitality industry.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
U.S. Presidential Election Coverage

For more information about where the candidates stand on workplace issues, check out the SHRM resources provided below:

· SHRM's full election coverage
· Clinton policies · Trump policies

Whether an increase in the minimum wage would have adverse effects on employment prospects depends on how fast it's implemented, said Gary Burtless, a senior fellow in economic studies with the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit public policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

Clinton hasn't specified a timetable for the increase. While she supports state and local efforts to pay more than $12 an hour, her minimum wage proposal is less than the Democratic Party platform's support of a $15 minimum wage nationwide.

She said she would sign a bill for a $15 minimum wage after Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said he supported the idea during an April 14 debate. Clinton, however, has expressed concern that this would be too aggressive for parts of the country, according to The Huffington Post.

On ABC's "This Week" April 17, Clinton clarified that she would support a $15 minimum wage bill if it was phased in gradually and it took into account the hike's effects on areas with lower costs of living. She cited New York's law with its gradual phase-in and lower increases upstate as exemplary.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Because family leave generally is unpaid, one-quarter of all working women in the United States return to work less than two weeks after giving birth, according to the Clinton campaign. She wants to change that through mandatory paid family leave. She also supports paid medical leave. (Time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act is unpaid.)

"Paid family leave won't cost middle class families or businesses a dime," Clinton wrote in an April 5 Baltimore Sun op-ed piece. "We can fully fund this by asking the very wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share of taxes."

Paid family leave "saves the government and businesses money," National Partnership for Women & Families Vice President Vicki Shabo told SHRM Online. The nonprofit is located in Washington, D.C. "Numerous studies show that paid leave promotes families' health and economic security, reduces the use of public assistance programs, and benefits businesses through improved worker loyalty and reduced turnover."

Shabo said just 13 percent of the workforce has paid family leave through their employers.

"Who doesn't support paid leave?" asked Lisa Horn, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) director, congressional affairs, and Kelly Hastings, SHRM senior advisor, government relations, in an e-mail. "SHRM believes the best approach to providing more paid leave is to incentivize employers to voluntarily offer leave that makes sense for both the organization and the workforce." They criticized any proposed government mandate "that limits employer flexibility and may ultimately mean less paid leave for some employees."

Paycheck Fairness Act

Clinton introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act on April 19, 2005, when she was a senator representing the state of New York and has said she would support it if elected president. The bill would limit when employers may pay workers who do the same job different wages and would prohibit employers from punishing employees for discussing their wages.

"Ensuring compensation equity in the workplace is a priority issue for HR professionals," noted Kathleen Coulombe, SHRM senior advisor, government relations. "Hillary Clinton has been outspoken about her interest in passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which SHRM opposes because it would restrict employers' pay practices and limit legitimate pay factors such as an employee's professional experience and salary history. The Paycheck Fairness Act would allow employers to base employee pay differentials only on seniority, merit and production."

ACA

Clinton has pledged to defend and expand the ACA.

Steve Wojcik, vice president for public policy with the National Business Group on Health—a Washington, D.C., nonprofit representing large employers' perspective on national health policy issues—said Clinton plans to expand the ACA by:

  • Providing more-generous subsidies.
  • Reducing out-of-pocket payments like co-pays and deductibles.
  • Providing more choice in the exchanges.
  • Encouraging the enlargement of Medicaid in states where it has not yet expanded despite the Affordable Care Act encouraging Medicaid expansion.

While Clinton has promised to uphold the ACA, she "has stated for the record that she would urge Congress to repeal the excise tax if she is elected president," noted Chatrane Birbal, SHRM senior advisor, government relations. "SHRM has long advocated for full repeal of the excise tax and applauded the two-year delay of the ACA's 40 percent excise tax on high-value, employer-sponsored health care benefits until 2020." The excise tax is also known as the "Cadillac tax."

"Even if an employer tries to control costs, it does not make sense to penalize plans with costs that are higher overall than inflation and the economy," Wojcik said. He noted that the excise tax is likely to hit plans run by unions that support Clinton, as they are "way behind in reasonable cost-sharing."

Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Perhaps most controversially, Clinton has voiced her support for comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to full citizenship.

Many employers want comprehensive immigration reform, said Holzer, who thinks a reform bill could pass the Senate.

Clinton's immigration reform plans are "still fairly general, although it is reasonable to assume she supports something along the lines of the comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013," said Daniel Costa, director of immigration law and policy research with the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C., think tank that focuses on labor issues.

Clinton also hasn't been specific about guest worker programs, like those for H-1B visas. Costa said there is "evidence that the programs are helping keep wages low in certain occupations, and the migrant workers in these programs are tied to one employer, and therefore often exploited."

"Secretary Clinton embraced immigration reform while in the Senate and on the campaign trail, so that is a positive sign and we will hopefully get to debate the issues if she wins," said Rebecca Peters, director of government affairs at the Council for Global Immigration, an affiliate of SHRM. "However, she has not yet fully laid out plans on high-skilled immigration, where there needs to be a focus on the fundamental misalignment between our high-skilled immigration system and business realities. We are looking to see if she turns more attention to our high-skilled system as employers face daunting skills gaps that only greater access to talent can fill—at least in the short term."

Businesses at the low end of wages also need a legalized flow of immigrants, Holzer said, which is why he thinks comprehensive immigration reform has "a fighting chance" in the next presidential administration.

Donald Trump's workplace law agenda is highlighted in a separate article

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