This Week in HR Policy

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With Congress mulling multiple paid family leave legislative proposals and a federal paid leave program seemingly on the horizon, questions remain regarding the best approach to how such a program—likely to be a UI-type insurance program—would be funded: through a payroll tax or general revenue? Whichever option is chosen could have a major impact on existing employer paid leave programs. The Building an Economy for Families Act , introduced by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA), and President Biden’s American Families Plan joined the FAMILY Act ( H.R. 804 ), introduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ...
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The SEC is sending clear signals, including from Chair Gensler and his staff, that it intends to move quickly on ESG issues for both companies and investors. At the same time, the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) is tightening its minimum requirements on voting and policy requirements for signatory firms, which is likely to increase investor demands on companies for D&I and climate disclosures. PRI released its 2021-2024 Strategic Plan in April . Since PRI has achieved admirable market penetration with its certification, investors seeking to avoid the reputational risk of delisting will enhance engagement efforts and sharpen ...
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During an HR Policy Global meeting on how local HR leaders are managing the COVID-19 crisis and supporting their employees in India, HR heads from major global companies shared their strategies and key resources, and proposed to work collectively on a vaccination plan for their employees. Vaccination concerns and solutions under new regulations: How to get employees and their families vaccinated quickly is a huge challenge when the country is experiencing a shortage of supplies and uncertainty about related policies and regulations. This week, India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) announced that private companies can directly ...
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A worker shortage has prompted Montana to end distribution of supplemental federal unemployment benefits and instead grant bonuses to unemployed workers who return to the labor force. Meanwhile, employers prepare for UI payroll tax hikes throughout the U.S. The extra federal unemployment income is “doing more harm than good” said Montana Governor Greg Gianforte (R). Under the new Montana program, workers receiving unemployment benefits can receive a one-time $1,200 bonus after completing four weeks at a new job. The program will be funded through federal COVID relief allocated to the state. Montana’s March unemployment rate is 3.8%—down from 11.9% ...
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In a concerning development for businesses, Republicans in Florida and Oklahoma showed support for a private right of action in pending data privacy legislation, with the Florida bill failing due to disagreement over the issue. A private right of action in privacy legislation would be a boon for trial lawyers but is not the only effective enforcement mechanism for privacy legislation. Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act, which has a private right of action, is an important case study. A flurry of lawsuits against businesses has prompted several bipartisan efforts to provide relief to employers. Support for private right of action in ...
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The House Energy and Commerce and Education and Labor Committees held hearings this week on drug pricing legislation, including H.R. 3, a bill that would likely shift costs to employers in seeking to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. Voters and corporate leaders say drug prices should be a top priority in Congress. A recent poll shows 50% of voters, including 55% of Democrats and 46% of Republicans, say passing legislation to lower drug prices should be a priority this year in Congress. This comes after a recent Kaiser survey of corporate leaders from over 300 large private employers found 72% of respondents expressed support for allowing ...
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The DOL officially rescinded the previous administration’s rule that clarified the status of independent contractors, reverting back to a less clear standard that narrows the contractor classification. Employers are required to track hours and pay overtime to any workers who do not qualify for independent contractor status. Seven factor economic realities test: The DOL did not replace the withdrawn rule with its own regulation—yet—but cited guidance from 2008 that outlined a seven-factor test based on “economic realities” that will be applied in every misclassification case going forward. The multifactor test has been established through case law, although ...
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House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) introduced legislation to provide universal paid family and sick leave benefits with more generous eligibility than the Family and Medical Leave Act. Separately, President Biden unveiled a similarly expansive paid leave proposal in his American Families Plan. Biden’s proposal would phase in 12 weeks of paid parental, family, personal illness and safety leave by year 10 of the program, with three days of bereavement leave per year available starting in year one. The program would provide workers up to $4,000 a month, with a minimum of two-thirds of average weekly wages replaced, rising to ...
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In a pair of executive orders, President Biden created an unprecedented task force at the highest level of government charged with increasing union membership and raised the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 an hour. Executive Order 14025 establishes the “White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment,” “dedicated to mobilizing the federal government’s policies, programs, and practices to empower workers to organize and successfully bargain with their employers.” The task force will be chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris and vice chaired by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. The rest of the task force will be made up of the President’s ...
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The House Financial Services Committee passed Rep. Gregory Meek’s (D-NY) Improving Corporate Governance through Diversity Act (H.R. 1277), which would require public companies to annually disclose the voluntarily self-identified gender, race, ethnicity, and veteran status of their board directors and executive officers. The bill, approved by a bipartisan voice vote, is supported by several trade associations , including the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In 2019, the bill was approved by the same committee with broad, bipartisan support and was subsequently passed by a vote of 281 to 135 with the support of 55 ...
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In response to the worsening COVID-19 crisis in India, HR Policy Association and its members have been exchanging approaches to help support employees and communities on the ground. HR Policy in India provided informative virtual sessions this week discussing what global employers can do to help employees in India, featuring local experts. Meaningful conversations took place regarding the current COVID-19 situation, its spread, treatment, and access to vaccinations. HR Policy in India is contemplating future sessions focusing on best company practices and initiatives regarding how companies are helping their employees, central and local government activities, ...
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In his speech before Congress, the President gave a full-throated endorsement for Congress to “give Medicare the power to save hundreds of billions of dollars by negotiating lower prescription drug prices” and to use the savings to “strengthen the Affordable Care Act and expand Medicare coverage benefits.” But will employers benefit? The President noted that “it will lower prescription drug costs for everyone,” not just those on Medicare, which suggests he supports enabling employer plans to have access to negotiated prices. While Biden’s American Families Plan only called for permanently extending the ACA subsidies, his call for Congress to act ...
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“One thing is crystal clear:” noted Johnna Torsone, Chair of our Future Workplace Policy Council and CHRO at Pitney Bowes, “navigating the changing expectations of our stakeholders, including shareholders and employees, has never been more challenging in light of the extremes of both parties.” Ms. Torsone’s remarks kicked off a two-day examination by policymakers, FWPC staff, and member companies of the most challenging issues as a new administration and Congress hits its stride. “Expect every workforce in every location to have greater exposure in terms of possible union organization,” said former NLRB Chairman Phil Miscimarra of Morgan Lewis , citing ...
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HR Policy and the American Health Policy Institute joined employer groups in submitting comments ahead of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate HELP Committee hearings on telehealth and mental health and substance use. HR Policy outlined the pressing need to continue policies implemented during the public health emergency which increase access to telehealth and behavioral health services. COVID-19 exposed existing health care disparities: Workers’ mental health has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic and access to consistent care is a challenge for those with behavioral and physical health concerns. Modernizing existing telehealth laws can ...
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Commission Chair Charlotte Burrows said, “Today’s testimony makes clear that, while the pandemic continues to have serious impacts on public health and our economy, it has also created a civil rights crisis for many of America’s workers.” Witness testimony focused on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women and people of color in front-line retail and service jobs. Other testimony noted the harmful effects of the pandemic on Asian Americans. Witness policy recommendations included: Making COVID-19 an ADA disability, particularly for those with lingering aftereffects who cannot perform the same work they did before contracting the virus; ...
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President Biden's intention to nominate David Weil, former Wage and Hour Administrator under President Obama, to fill the same position for his own administration portends actions by the administration to restrict the use of independent contractors. Weil has been a frequent critic of gig companies and other employers for creating a "fissured workplace" and during his previous tenure broadly applied wage and hours laws to significantly restrict the independent contractor classification. The Obama years: Weil’s tenure during the Obama years was associated with extensive use of investigatory authority to target establishments’ use of independent contractors ...
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Steering clear of a federal mandate, the Biden administration called on all employers to provide paid leave for workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and recover from vaccination side effects. The administration also called on large employers to provide individuals with information on where and how they can be vaccinated. Information and incentives: The administration is asking large employers to take advantage of their resources to provide accurate and up-to-date information on the vaccines, including the benefits of vaccination, through in-store messaging and public service announcements (PSAs). Employers are also asked to provide incentives such as: ...
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SEC Chairman Gary Gensler announced several staffing decisions for high profile roles with the Commission, including Heather Slavkin Corzo as policy director . In a previous role at the AFL-CIO, Ms. Corzo advocated for limitations on stock buybacks, the inclusion of employee representatives on company boards, and tighter regulations on private equity firms. Prior to the SEC, Ms. Corzo served as the director of capital markets policy at the AFL-CIO as well as head of U.S. Policy at the Principles for Responsible Investment, a network of asset owners focused on ESG concerns. Her professional experience will likely provide Mr. Gensler with a clear understanding ...
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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he would cosponsor the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (S. 420/H.R. 842), leaving only three Senate Democrats who have not expressed support or opposition to the measure. Manchin pledged to work with “my colleagues on both sides of the aisle” to find the bipartisan support needed to obtain the 60 votes necessary for passage under current Senate rules. Focus now shifts to 3 Democratic holdouts: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has indicated he will bring the bill to the Senate floor if it has all 50 Democratic votes. Arizona Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, and Virginian Mark Warner, are the remaining ...
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The Democrats' Lower Drug Costs Now Act ( H.R. 3 ) would enable Medicare to negotiate drug prices and allow employer plans access to those rates, a move which is estimated to lower drug costs but would impact the U.S. pharmacy supply chain. H.R. 3 is estimated to save employers $43.1 billion in drug costs over the next ten years, according to the Office of the Actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services However, it would disrupt the U.S. pharmacy supply chain in unexpected ways. Some experts disagree on the benefits of H.R. 3, with the Congressional Budget Office projecting eight to 15 fewer new drugs being brought to market over the ...
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