As expected, today the Senate confirmed Thomas Perez as the next Secretary of Labor by a margin of 54-46. This vote comes a day after the Senate narrowly garnered 60 votes – the bare minimum needed to proceed without the threat of a filibuster – in his favor. The advancement of Perez’s nomination was part of the recent deal made earlier this week to avoid changing the chamber’s filibuster rules. Now that the Department of Labor once again has leadership, expect the regulatory floodgates to open.
During a Senate committee hearing in April, Perez listed his top priorities as reauthorizing the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), ensuring safe and equal opportunity workplaces, establishing pension security, and providing even-handed enforcement of wage and hour laws. It is likely, however, that Perez will push through more contentious rules, including the much-maligned persuader regulations that will threaten attorney-client confidentiality and facilitate union organizing. Specifically, this rule would broaden the scope of reportable activities by substantially narrowing its interpretation of the “advice exemption” in Section 203(c) of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).
Rules also slated to be finalized in the coming months, according to the newly-released regulatory agenda, include the companionship exemption rule, which would apply the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to domestic service workers.
The DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) is likewise scheduled to release a host of controversial regulations, including final rules amending a contractor’s and subcontractor’s affirmative action and nondiscrimination obligations towards protected veterans under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA), and individuals with disabilities. With respect to the rule amending the affirmative action requirements for individuals with disabilities, the proposed rule would impose a utilization goal of 7% for each job group in the contractor’s workforce. OFCCP was also considering the option of including within the 7% goal for individuals with disabilities a sub-goal of 2% for individuals with certain particularly severe disabilities. If the final rule resembles the proposal, government contractors and subcontractors can expect significant and costly burdens in the coming year.
Next week the Senate will begin consideration of the two new NLRB nominees.