As Joe Biden was officially sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, significant changes to our nation’s labor laws and employment regulations could be in store. And with Democrats recently claiming control of the Senate, these pivotal political developments will undoubtedly shift conversations around policies and legislation in an effort to become more employee-friendly.
To help businesses prepare for the road ahead, Acara’s internal legal counsel and team of talent experts compiled a number of changes that could be on the way in the ensuing months.
1. Increasing time for paid leave
Many political pundits anticipate increased support for employees’ paid leave benefits from the Biden administration. President Biden has advocated for the institution of universal paid sick days and has been a vocal supporter of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. According to his campaign website, Mr. Biden is also said to be committed to legislation that will provide 12 weeks of paid leave for all workers to care for newborn children, newly adopted or fostered children, or family members with serious medical conditions.
2. Raising the federal minimum wage
One of the primary platforms of Mr. Biden’s campaign was his pledge to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. He has promised to index the minimum wage to the median hourly wage, a move that would enable low-income workers to keep pace with middle-income earners. Rumor has it that the President could also look to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors, as well.
3. Supporting AB-5 legislation and protections for independent contractors
The enactment of California’s AB-5 sent shockwaves throughout the freelance market early this past year. Despite public legal battles that brewed over the classification of independent contractors, Mr. Biden stood behind this union-backed law. Employment experts have been eyeing the President’s response to AB-5 as a key indicator of what he will enact on a federal level. If the Biden administration looks to adopt similar language that would provide workplace rights and protections to independent contractors, the gig economy could go into free fall.
4. Expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities
Throughout his political career, Mr. Biden has made an effort to support workers with disabilities by tearing down barriers to workplace discrimination. The Biden administration has sworn to fight for other historically overlooked pockets of the population, including women, LGBTQ+, and minority candidates. It is likely that he will soon repeal President Trump’s “Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping” that prohibits the federal government—along with federal agencies and contractors—from mandating diversity and unconscious bias training initiatives.
5. Reversing anti-immigration policies
During his presidential campaign, Mr. Biden pledged to reverse President Trump’s immigration policies that terminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Many labor experts also predict that President Biden will streamline the employment-based immigration visa process and eliminate existing caps on per-country visas, thereby allowing businesses to supplement their workforces with migrant workers.
6. Renewing a commitment to clean energy
Since taking office in 2016, President Trump and his administration have been ardent supporters of fossil fuel industries like coal and petroleum. But political experts and Wall Street investors both claim that change is on the horizon. Mr. Biden has already shown interest in reshifting America’s focus to solar, wind, and other clean energy sources. And as renewable-energy projects have decreased the cost of electricity below that of coal and gas-fired power plants, many expect the new president to pave the way for greater adoption of clean energy.
While it remains to be seen what specific changes will be implemented by the Biden administration, one can confidently assume that the presidential changing of the guard will be accompanied by a shift in workforce policy. It is only a matter of time before President Biden begins enacting executive orders and other forms of legislation to shift power from employers to employees. These regulations will be critical in pushing his labor initiatives forward.
Despite the changes that are bound to in the ensuing months, our team at Acara will be ready to provide advice and recommendations that will keep your business moving forward. Whether you are seeking guidance in your approach to recruiting or require counsel on worker classification issues, give our talent experts a call to discuss how we can help.
The blog was originally published on December 15, 2020.