The HR and employment law landscape will undoubtedly change under the new Democratic Biden administration. However, the swiftness with which the administration is moving to undue or rewrite Trump-era practices is striking. Below are some of the more noteworthy developments just since Biden took office on January 20th.
The New Proposed Covid-19 Stimulus Package
The $1.9 Trillion proposed stimulus has plenty of proposed changes for the employment landscape, including a $15 minimum wage, renewal of the paid sick and FMLA leave provisions that expired at the end of December 2020, a third round of individual stimulus checks, and further enhanced unemployment benefits for out-of-work employees.
OSHA Covid-19 Protection Standards
The Biden Administration has asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to create by March 15th a set of emergency Covid-19 protection standards that would apply to both private and public workplaces. If issued, the temporary standards would last for 6 months and could become permanent. The Biden administration has suggested such standards should include an anti-retaliation provision designed to prevent employer retaliation against employees who report workplace Covid-19 safety issues.
DOL’s New Relaxed Independent Contractor Rule in Doubt
Near the end of the Trump administration, the US Department of Labor (DOL) promulgated a rule that relaxed the restrictions around employers’ use of independent contractors. The Biden administration has already expressed its disapproval of those relaxed standards and DOL is expected to either retract or significantly revise the proposed rule before its new effective date of May 7, 2021.
Immigration Reform is a High Priority
Through Executive Orders (EO) issued in the first few days following his inauguration, President Biden undid most if not all of the Trump EO’s concerning immigration. The Biden administration has vowed to submit a comprehensive immigration reform bill to Congress in his first few months in office.
EEOC’s New Wellness Program Rules Frozen
On January 7th, before President Trump left office, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published two new proposed rules regarding employee participation in employer-sponsored wellness programs, and how such programs can avoid violating federal law. The new Biden administration has frozen all Trump-era proposed rules that were not yet in effect when he took office. The EEOC must now review the rules and reissue them. It is unclear to what extent the rules may be revised under the new Biden administration, so employers will need to “stay tuned for further developments” on this issue and avoid implementing or changing their wellness programs until the EEOC clarifies its position.