DOL leadership, paycheck fairness and more
This is a weekly article highlighting labor-related topics developed by the legislative and executive branches of the United States over the past week. In this issue, we cover:
Leadership Updates from the Work of the Biden Administration
Paycheck Fairness Act | The House approves the bill
Healthy Families Act Reintroduced
Advice on unemployment insurance
Independent contractor and rules of joint employment | Lawmakers Submit Letters of Comment
Tips for Plan Sponsors, Plan Trustees, Archivists and Plan Members
Advice for the investment advice exemption
ASPIRE initiative in mental health | Seven selected states
Election of the Amazon Union
Leadership updates from the work of the Biden administration. On April 21, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions (HELP) is due to hold a business meeting to consider the appointment of Ms. Julie Su to serve as assistant secretary at work.
On April 9, US President Joe Biden ad his intention to name Mr. Doug Parker to serve as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA). Mr. Parker is currently Head of the California Occupational Safety and Health Division (Cal / OSHA). Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) mentionned of the appointment:
During his tenure in California, Doug Parker was a key architect of the controversial and discredited COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) in California, which imposed dozens of unachievable and baffling new mandates on employers who are often conflict with current science and do nothing. to improve occupational safety results. . . . Now he has been hired to lead OSHA which is considering a similar national standard. I hope Mr. Parker, if confirmed by the Senate, has learned from the mistakes of the past and will recognize how impractical, unnecessary and harmful a federal ETS would be for American workers.
Paycheck Fairness Act | The House approves the bill. On April 15, Foxx, a ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee, spoke out against HR 7, the Paycheck Fairness Act, saying on House soil that it offers no new protection against pay discrimination and rewards trial lawyers with unlimited pay days. She added that the bill would also “severely” limit workplace flexibility for women. That afternoon, the House narrowly approved the bill by a vote of 217 to 210. President Biden applauded House action, urging the Senate to follow suit.
The Healthy Families Act is reintroduced. On April 13, Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, reintroduced the Healthy Families Act, legislation that seeks to establish a federal paid sick leave policy for American workers. It would require companies with at least 15 employees to provide up to 56 hours, or seven days, of paid sick leave each year. Companies that already offer paid sick leave would not have to change their current policies, provided they meet the minimum standards of the Healthy Families Act.
Advice on unemployment insurance. On April 14, the US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) provided new orientation to states on identity verification for Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims, amid an increase in fraudulent claims during the pandemic. The guidance will help states find and stop payments on claims based on stolen or fake identities and will help unemployed people who have been falsely flagged as potentially fraudulent. It also explains what states can do to protect victims whose identities may have been previously stolen and then used by criminals to apply for unemployment insurance benefits.
Independent contractor and rules of joint employment | Lawmakers submit letters of comment. Democratic lawmakers, led by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Virginia), submitted letters this week to the Department of Labor’s public comment period on: (1) the proposed withdrawal of the Independent contractor rule; and (2) proposal to terminate the Joint employment rule. Lawmakers have expressed support for the Biden administration’s decisions, suggesting that these actions will save workers billions of dollars in lost wages each year.
Advice for plan sponsors, plan trustees, registrars and plan members. For the first time, the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration on April 14 issued cybersecurity guidelines for plan sponsors and trustees regulated by the Employees Retirement Income Security Act, 1974 (ERISA), and participants and beneficiaries of the plan:
Tips for hiring a service provider: Helps plan sponsors and trustees prudently select a service provider with strong cybersecurity practices and monitor their activities as required by ERISA.
Cyber Security Program Best Practices: Assists plan trustees and archivists in their cybersecurity risk management responsibilities.
Online safety tips: Provides members and beneficiaries who verify their retirement accounts online with basic rules to reduce the risk of fraud and loss.
The new direction comes a month after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report at the request of members of Congress on the risks posed by cybersecurity threats to pension plans. Senate Aid Committee Chairman Murray, House Education and Labor Speaker Scott, and Senator Maggie Hassan (D-New Hampshire) released a joint statement welcoming the cybersecurity guide.
Guide to the exemption from investment advice. On April 13, the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration issued guidance on trust investment advice for retirement investors, employee benefit plans, and investment advice providers. . The guidance addresses the Ministry’s exemption from improving investment advice for workers and retirees and follows its announcement on February 12, 2021 that this exemption would come into effect as scheduled on February 16, 2021. Both published documents (here; here) are limited to the application of federal retirement laws regarding advice regarding investments in plans covered by ERISA, such as 401 (k) plans and the Internal Revenue Code, such as IRAs.
ASPIRE initiative in mental health | Seven selected states. On April 14, the Department of Labor ad it has selected seven states to participate in its Advancing State Policy Integration for Recovery and Employment (ASPIRE) initiative, which aims to align state policy and funding to increase competitive integrated employment for people with mental disorders. The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) will provide Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Virginia and Wisconsin with tailored and targeted technical assistance. ODEP has contracted with Westat, a research firm in Maryland, to provide technical assistance to participating states.
Election of the Union of Amazonia. After Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama decided not to form a union last week, President Scott released a statement calling on the Senate to pass the Protect the right to organize (PRO) Act. He argued, “American workers will not have constant access to free, fair and secure union elections until we strengthen our country’s labor laws. We cannot continue to allow employers to interfere with the decision of workers whether or not to form a union. Foxx Ranking Member against, calling the bill a “job-destroying PRO union bosses law” and claiming that Bessemer workers were “able to vote in secret, allowing them to express their views freely and without fear”.
© Copyright 2021 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPReview of national legislation, volume XI, number 110