Now that the government shutdown has ended, Congress is settling in and getting down to business. Watch for action on a number of issues affecting HR.
While not all issues or proposed bills will go anywhere, paid leave has the best chance of being signed into law. This issue has some broad bipartisan support; and the president has even spoken out favorably about the concept of paid family leave and paid sick leave.
Most likely, the issue will be addressed with an expansion of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. However, some Republicans have expressed support for a voluntary paid-sick-leave program or one where employees shoulder the cost through a reduction in Social Security or other benefits. However, these ideas have not been well-received by Democrats.
A few other issues to monitor include:
· Federal minimum wage. Democrats, experts say, are already eager to hold hearings on this issue and likely will make it a legislative priority. Many workers’ rights groups and a number of legislators support the idea of a $15 federal minimum wage, but this doesn’t have bipartisan support. A minimum wage hike is unlikely, Hill watchers say, unless fears of a pending recession are realized.
· Labor issues. The Workplace Democracy Act, a series of amendments to overhaul labor-management relations and increase union membership, is expected to be introduced this year. It has a good chance of passing the House, but it doesn’t stand a chance in the Senate.
· Workplace equity. The House is expected to pass legislation prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, and there is likely to be a renewed focus on workplace sexual harassment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits sexual harassment; however, Democrats are expected to offer other ways to address the problem.
HR professionals would be wise to track these issues but not jump the gun in terms of taking any premature actions. While you’re watching the goings-on in Washington, don’t forget to keep your eye on state and local government activities. Particularly in states that had a party turnover in the governor’s office or legislatures, there is likely to be new action on a number of fronts.