Compliance

Where 3 pieces of worker-focused legislation stand, halfway through 2024

We checked in on where paid leave, workforce development, and worker organizing legislation stands in Washington, DC.
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Jemal Countess/Getty Images

4 min read

Congress is gearing up to go on summer break, and this year isn’t shaping up to be much more productive than the last. A myriad of labor and employment bills have been introduced in Washington, DC, over the past year, including legislation that would mandate IRA enrollment and a bill that would invalidate forced arbitration clauses in age discrimination lawsuits. But for now, none of these proposals have made it as far as President Biden’s desk.

We checked in on where lawmakers stand on three major policy areas that affect HR pros’ work: paid leave, workforce development, and worker organizing.

Paid family leave. It has been more than 30 years since the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed, mandating 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employees to bond with a new child or care for a loved one. Lawmakers have been trying unsuccessfully to pass something more robust—and paid—for more than a decade.

At the end of last year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers renewed these efforts, HR Brew reported in January. Congress has yet to take up any legislation stemming from this push, including the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would create a national paid family and medical leave program, and was reintroduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro in May 2023.

In January, a House of Representatives working group released a policy framework detailing potential pathways for paid family leave, including the creation of a public-private partnership to help more states establish such programs, and the expansion of a tax credit for small businesses that provide this benefit. House representatives are reportedly looking into enacting the tax credit outlined in the framework as part of a future tax package, Politico reported in its Weekly Shift newsletter on March 25.

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Workforce development. In December, Rep. Virginia Foxx, who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and ranking member Rep. Bobby Scott introduced a bill to reauthorize the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity (WIOA) Act, with an eye toward streamlining federal workforce development programs.

The bill would dedicate half of the funding from the WIOA’s adult and dislocated worker program to upskilling these employees through “on-the-job learning, and other employer-led and industry relevant initiatives,” according to a summary of the legislation. Workers who are displaced from their jobs “through no fault of their own” would also be eligible to access $5,000 worth of reskilling programs through an individual training account. It would push for more skills-based hiring, authorizing state and local boards to provide “technical assistance” to employers to implement this.

The House reauthorized the bill on April 9, advancing the legislation to the Senate.

The PRO Act. In February 2023, lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which is intended to strengthen US federal labor law.

The bill proposed a number of measures to facilitate unionizing among workers and strengthen the ability of the National Labor Relations Board to punish employers who violate workers’ rights. It would seek to ban so-called “captive audience meetings,” which are seen by some as a tactic to dissuade workers from joining unions, as well as facilitate “timely first contracts” between companies and newly-unionized workers.

The Biden administration has sought to push through some of the worker-friendly policies outlined in the PRO Act through its own rulemaking. The Department of Labor (DOL) addressed worker misclassification, for example, through a rule making it harder to classify employees as independent contractors. The PRO Act, though, hasn’t made it past introduction.

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.