By: Eva Zelson
On: January 28, 2021
With every new administration, we expect to see changes in a number of laws that affect our everyday lives. Employment law will be no different as President Biden takes office. In this article, we take a look at what changes you can expect in the world of employment law over the next four years of President Biden’s term.
What Changes Can We Expect in Employment Law Under the Biden Administration?
President Biden has consistently promoted a more progressive approach to labor and employment law, and thus during his administration, we can expect more changes that help promote equality and safety in the workplace, broaden employee rights and benefits, and aim to address many of the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. Broadly speaking, we can expect to see new laws that will provide relief options for employees, implement new guidelines for workplace safety, increase reporting and record-keeping and redefine benefits to be more inclusive.
Will There be a Change in the Minimum Wage Under the New Administration?
It is expected that over his term, President Biden’s employment law focus will be on the middle and working class, including increasing the minimum wage across the country. Currently, $7.25 an hour, President Biden promises to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. It is also anticipated that over the same period of time, employers will see increased penalties for failing to comply with minimum wage standards. These could include fines or other sanctions for failing to maintain records of employee wages, failing to prevent wage theft, and avenues for employees to seek redress if their wage rights are infringed upon.
What Will the New Administration do About Workplace Safety and Covid Concerns?
In the first days of his presidency, President Biden has already made significant moves to enhance workplace safety rules and regulations for employees still on the job during the pandemic. The new president has directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to implement new guidance to employers across the country aimed at protecting workers from exposure to the virus. Some new rules to employment law that we can expect over the coming months are regulations that generate more relief for families who are unable to return to work due to COVD-19 safety-related concerns and access to unemployment benefits.
Will There be Changes to FMLA Under the Biden Administration?
While campaigning, President Biden indicated his intention to add an amendment to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The new amendment, which would be known as the FAMILY Act (Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act) would grant employees time off to care for take care of themselves or family members with serious illness, allow time off for military families preparing for deployment, and also provide paid time off to allow families to care for newborn or newly adopted children.
Additionally, many anticipate that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) will be expanded further. FFCRA, which provides paid sick leave and paid family leave for COVID-19 related illnesses or family emergencies, was a temporary relief program that was introduced in April 2020. However, with the new administration, many believe that the program’s benefits will be expanded to reach more employees and further clarified to better define employer obligations under the law.
Will the Biden Administration Revisit Pay Equity?
During election season, President Biden repeatedly voiced the need for increased protections in the workplace against gender discrimination and specifically identified equal pay as a task item he would address during his presidency. President Biden has often expressed support for the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill introduced in 2019, that would prohibit employers from asking about salary history when hiring new employees and determining a new hire’s salary based on prior compensation. Additionally, the Act would prohibit employers from taking retaliatory actions against employees who discuss wages among colleagues, and would also establish a number of remedies to employees whose employers fail to comply with these standards. With Biden now president, we can expect that he will continue to advocate for bills like this one to be pushed forward.
What Other Changes in Employment Law Can We Expect in the Near Future?
With the pandemic still wreaking havoc across the country, it’s expected that many of the President’s first employment-law-related actions will focus on workplace safety and ensuring that employees are protected in the event they (or a family member) become ill. Over the first few months of President Biden’s administration, many regulatory changes are expected to come out of OSHA and FMLA that will help employees cope with the struggles that the pandemic has caused. Once the virus is more under control, we can expect to see President Biden address some of the other employment law topics he addressed during his campaign.