As we prepare to turn the calendar to 2018, employers look ahead to the next wave of labor and employment regulations. On January 1, 2018, and throughout the coming year, employers across the nation will confront a host of new or amended federal, state, and/or local laws. This article summarizes impending obligations that may flow from these law changes in the chart below and also highlights some anticipated activity.
Ongoing Federal Activity
At this time last year, employers faced uncertainty about how the Trump administration and Congress might alter federal labor, employment and benefits obligations. Although change to federal workplace policy has not come as quickly as many expected, the pace of change is likely to accelerate as nominations and appointments to critical positions are filled. Indeed, action on the nominations to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and Department of Labor (DOL) signals that expected changes in workplace policy will be forthcoming in the year ahead.1
With that in mind, employers should pay particular attention in 2018 to several potential developments at the federal level, including possible additional changes in immigration law and enforcement.2 Health care policy, including the viability of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also remains in flux. After Republicans failed to “repeal and replace” the ACA through the legislative process, the White House issued an executive order to try to reform the nation’s healthcare system through regulatory channels.3 Meanwhile, efforts to revamp the tax code are well underway in Congress, some aspects of which would have a significant impact on benefits and executive compensation, but are far from settled.
Employers saw some changes in 2017 on several key labor and employment issues, and 2018 is likely to bring further federal legislative and/or administrative developments in these areas. For example, in 2018 the DOL is expected to revisit the now-scuttled update to FLSA overtime regulations. The agency's Wage and Hour Division will likely engage in further rulemaking to decide what the new salary level should be for overtime purposes. In June, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced the withdrawal of two controversial Wage and Hour Administrator's Interpretations on independent contractors and joint employment.
Relatedly, in Congress, House Republicans passed a bill in 2017, entitled the Save Local Business Act (H.R. 3441), that would amend two labor and employment statutes to clarify when an entity can be deemed a “joint employer.”4 The bill moves now to the Senate, where its fate is less certain. In the face of an increasingly complex maze of state and local paid leave laws, lawmakers in Congress are proposing a novel approach to paid leave and workplace flexibility. In an effort to promote workplace flexibility and streamline employer paid leave obligations nationwide, Representative Mimi Walters (R-CA) House introduced the Workflex in the 21st Century Act (HR 4219). This bill would create a voluntary program whereby employers that choose to offer their employees a minimum number of compensable leave days per year and institute a flexible work arrangement would be exempt from the current patchwork of local and state paid leave laws.5 This legislation could clarify and simplify compliance burdens on employers across the nation.
Ongoing State and Local Activity
Of course, they say that “all politics is local,” and 2017 did not disprove that theory. Given the lingering gridlock in Congress, the most significant labor and employment developments taking effect in 2018 arose at the state and municipal levels. As the chart below demonstrates, municipalities have paved the way for new regulation on a variety of topics, including protected or paid time off, pregnancy accommodations, background checks, and equal pay.
Many new state and local laws enacted in 2017 have already taken effect. The chart below focuses only on those laws that are set to take effect in the new year and beyond. Readers interested in keeping abreast of legislative activity at the state and local levels should follow State of the States, our monthly report featuring notable bills and trends percolating in the statehouses and city halls nationwide.6
Laws Taking Effect in 2018
As the year winds down, employers should prepare for changes scheduled to take effect in 2018. The chart below briefly recaps laws and regulations that will become operative sometime in 2018. (We’ve included a few late bloomers from 2017 as well, and a sneak peek at 2019.) Although local and industry-specific laws may be listed, these samples are included primarily to highlight compliance challenges employers face. In addition, not all state and local minimum wage laws are included in this article. A complete discussion of minimum wage rate changes for 2018 can be found in a separate Littler Insight, The Minimum Wage in 2018: A Rates-Only Update. Because the below list does not cover every possibly applicable federal, state, and local law, employers may find it helpful to discuss with knowledgeable counsel which local, state, and/or federal laws will apply in 2018.
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