Now that the election’s over, experts are focusing on what legislative changes can be expected under the new president. HR pros will be watching a few big items on Obama’s agenda.
To promote the new administration’s plan, the Office of the President-Elect has set up a Web site to outline key initiatives.
Several of the proposals, if successful, will have a huge impact on HR:
1. More power to unions
Obama is a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a bill which could greatly expand the power of labor unions. Experts say the EFCA has a good chance of passing with Obama as president.
Under current regs, employers can require a union to hold a secret ballot vote before being certified by the National Labor Relations Board. The EFCA, however, would allow certification of a union if a majority of employees sign authorization cards.
Opponents of the bill claim the elimination of the secret ballot will diminish workers’ rights to freely decide whether they want to be represented by a union. They argue the card system leaves employees open to greater pressure from both sides.
2. Increased FMLA coverage
The President-elect has proposed several expansions to the Family and Medical Leave Act, including:
- expanding coverage requirements to include companies with at least 25 employees
- granting employees leave to address domestic violence and sexual assault, and
- giving parents 24 hours of leave a year to participate in their children’s academic activities.
3. Expanded paid leave
Several cities and states have passed or proposed laws giving workers the right to paid family and medical leave. Obama plans to set aside a $1.5 billion fund to help companies and governments with the cost of implementing paid leave programs.
Also in the works is a proposal requiring all employers to give full-time workers seven paid sick days a year.
4. More protected classes for discrimination cases
Obama also supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which was passed in the House of Representatives last year but has yet to be voted on in the Senate.
ENDA would prohibit companies from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
5. Greater protection against pay bias
The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was drafted in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber. Ledbetter sued Goodyear, claiming she was paid less than men doing the same job for more than 20 years.
The case was thrown out because the law says she had to sue within 180 days after the biased pay decision was made — i.e., when she was hired. The new law would give plaintiffs 180 days from the time they learn about possible discrimination.
Obama supports the law, and experts say it’s likely to pass with him in the White House and a greater Democratic majority in Congress.