During the past two weeks, measures were introduced in the House and Senate that address such topics as the minimum wage, employment taxes, labor-management relations and National Labor Relations Board Authority, wage and hour restrictions, and medical marijuana. A brief summary of new legislation is as follows:
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced a bill that would increase the federal minimum wage. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (S. 460; H.R. 1010) would increase the federal hourly rate from $7.25 to $10.10 in $.95 increments over a three-year period. After that time, the minimum wage would be tied to any cost of living adjustments. The bill would also increase the hourly wage for tipped workers from $2.13 to $3.00 during the first year, and then increase this base amount by either $.95 or an amount necessary to raise the rate to 70% of the minimum wage, whichever is less.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) will hold a hearing on the minimum wage on Thursday, March 13, 2013 at 10:00 a.m., ET. More information on the upcoming hearing can be found here.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced the States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act (H.R. 689) in Congress. This bill would reclassify marijuana under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to make its use legal when there is an acceptable medical use, and prohibit the CSA from restricting doctors from prescribing marijuana, patients from using it, pharmacies from dispensing it, and growers from growing it in states with medical marijuana laws. Introduction of the bill came less than a month after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, rejected an attempt to force the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana under the CSA in the same way as the proposed Act. H.R. 689 is not expected to have enough traction to pass as only eighteen (18) states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana legislation.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) reintroduced the National Right to Work Act (H.R.946), a bill that would amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Railway Labor Act (RLA) to repeal the provisions in these Acts that permit employers, pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement that is a union security agreement, to require employees to join a union as a condition of employment, and require the payroll deduction of union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) introduced yet another measure aimed to prevent the NLRB from a enforcing the rules, regulations, and decisions it has issued since President Obama appointed three members to the Board via recess appointment on January 4, 2012. This bill (H.R. 976) is one of many pieces of legislation introduced since a federal court in Noel Canning v. NLRB declared the appointments unconstitutional.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) reintroduced a bill that would clarify the employment tax responsibilities of a professional employer organization (PEO). While the text of this bill (S. 479) is not yet available, Sen. Grassley previously introduced the Small Business Efficiency Act during the last congressional session. PEOs typically contract with small and midsize companies to provide human resources and other services for workers at those businesses. The legislation would clarify that the PEO is the entity responsible for remitting federal payroll taxes to the IRS; establish a voluntary certification process within the IRS for PEOs; specify that an employer meets its federal payroll tax obligation when it remits payment to the PEO; and clarify that PEOs are not successor employers liable for the client employer’s existing liabilities.
Wage & Hour
On March 7 Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) re-introduced a bill that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to make over-the-road bus drivers subject to the law’s maximum hours requirement. The Driver Fatigue Prevention Act (S. 487) would revise Section 13(b)(1) of the FLSA, which exempts “any employee with respect to whom the Secretary of Transportation has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service” from the Act’s overtime provisions, to make an exception for over-the-road bus drivers. Over-the-road buses are those “characterized by an elevated passenger deck located over a baggage compartment.”