Compliance

Why SHRM would like to see these 3 employment laws updated

The organization believes “there’s lots of legislation related to the world of work that’s outdated,” says SHRM’s Emily Dickens.
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From a workplace civility campaign to CEO Johnny C. Taylor’s pledge to work with “whoever wins the White House,” the upcoming November elections loomed large at the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) annual conference in Chicago.

SHRM had 10 lobbyists representing its interests in government as of March, according to an OpenSecrets analysis of public records. Anticipating that issues like AI in the workplace will become a bigger political issue in the near future, Taylor said on June 24 that “HR will be fully in the mix all the way up to the top decision-making in government.”

The professional organization believes “there’s lots of legislation related to the world of work that’s outdated,” Emily Dickens, SHRM’s chief of staff, head of government affairs, and corporate secretary, told HR Brew. As SHRM looks ahead to the next 25 years, she identified three pieces of legislation the organization would like to see updated.

The Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Dickens characterized recent amendments made to the FLSA, a labor law granting full-time workers the right to a minimum wage and overtime pay that first took effect in 1938, as “piecemeal,” and said SHRM would like to “figure out how we can better address the workplace of today as opposed to the workplace that existed when that legislation came into being.” She mentioned the issue of independent contractors, noting the “bright line” between these workers and full-time employees has shifted from one administration to the next.

SHRM advocated against the Department of Labor’s independent contractor rule as an amendment to the FLSA, which applies a stricter test for employers to determine when a worker should be classified in this category. In a statement issued earlier this year, Dickens said SHRM acknowledged the DOL’s “dedication to formulating a rule for worker classification,” but was concerned about “the ongoing shifts in regulatory guidance,” as they “impose compliance burdens and legal uncertainties on HR professionals and business executives.”

Another major FLSA amendment made by President Biden’s administration concerns overtime compensation, as the DOL issued a final rule in April raising the salary thresholds for white-collar workers to receive this pay. SHRM took issue with the new threshold, advocating instead for “a more nuanced, geographically tailored approach” to any increase.

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The Immigration and Nationality Act. Some 57% of organizations surveyed by SHRM believe immigration could help address worker shortages, but more than one-half (55%) say it’s risky to invest in foreign-born talent “because of the uncertainty in the immigration system.”

“There is no question that we have a shortage of skilled labor at all levels,” Dickens said. “And that there is a way to address this through the immigration by updating the immigration system.”

The Biden administration recently announced it will allow certain spouses of US citizens to apply for lawful permanent residence without leaving the country, and those who are approved will be eligible to receive work authorization for up to three years. The administration is also working to speed up the work visa process for individuals who are in the country through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Dickens issued a statement expressing appreciation to the administration for taking these two steps.

Among the other immigration policy changes SHRM is advocating for are the elimination of country caps for employment-based visas, a streamlined electronic employment verification system, and “more legal and regulatory consistency” on the status of DACA recipients.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). SHRM would also like to see the FMLA change, given “the flexibility and needs of employees looks different” than they did when it was enacted more than 30 years ago, Dickens said.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has been working to develop legislation that would grant paid family leave to workers, but approaches to what exactly that looks like differ. In October, SHRM wrote a letter in support of a bill that would repeal a section of the FMLA that limits the amount of leave married couples working for the same employer can take.

SHRM has said any national proposal for paid family leave should address the “patchwork of state and local laws” that currently exist in the US, allow organizations flexibility in how they design their benefits, and reduce administrative costs associated with complying. Dickens anticipated caregiving for older relatives will become a bigger issue among workers in the coming years, and said any modernization of the FMLA should recognize “that is a key issue.”

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.