What The Future of HR Looks Like in 2009

Ok, I told you I was going to take a stab at being a futurist. Well here goes.

First some background information. Unless you have been in a hole somewhere you are aware that there is a Presidential election going on in the US. In addition to President, voters will also be selecting members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Although the Presidential selection is not yet clear it is relatively certain that Democrats will gain majority control of the Senate and will maintain, and probably increase, their hold on the majority of the House. Right now it is projected that Democrats will gain 8 seats in the Senate to give them 65 seats. This is just 2 shy of the 67 needed to override Presidential vetos. The House will gain 12 seats making it 260 Democrats and 175 Republicans. If all members are present to vote 291 votes are needed for a veto.

Why is this information important? Because my prognostications will deal with potential legislation. Whether it gets passed or not will depend on which candidate becomes President and whether “The Veto” becomes a factor.

Here we go. With two houses controlled by Democrats we can expect the following legislation to pass:

  1. Unions will call in their “marker” for helping Democrats get elected and the Employee Free Choice Act will pass making it easier for unions to form.
  2. A second ‘marker’ item will be the RESPECT Act. RESPECT stands for Re-empowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction Trade. This law will change the definition of “supervisor” and as a result, to the great benefit of union membership, will allow many supervisors to become unionized. You can find more about this at the Pennsylvania Employment and Labor Blog.
  3. In recognition of Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency the Paycheck Fairness Act will pass the Senate. The House of Representatives’ version has already passed. This is an amendment to the Equal Pay Act. Opponents say the EPA handles these situation, proponents say that inequities still exist and need to be legislated.
  4. In conjunction with the Paycheck Fairness Act is the Equal Pay Act Amended. This introduces the concept of equal pay for “equivalent jobs.” This harkens back to the concept of Comparable Worth. This may or may not pass, as this creates a major burden on the DOL of determining job equivalency from company to company and even internally in companies.
  5. A third compensation bill that will pass will be the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. This bill essentially eliminates the 180 day period during which discrimination must be reported. Currently if a complaint is not made to the EEOC on pay discrimination within 180 the EEOC does not recognize the complaint as valid. In essence the 180 days rolls because every day there is discrimiation in pay it resets the clock. This will not be retroactive but it will greatly increase the number of future lawsuits that will be filed.
  6. In deference to the very long service of Ted Kennedy in the Senate and in anticipation of his death I predict that two of his pet pieces of legislation will see some action. First, the Minimum Wage increases will be revisited and will be extended for another 3 years of increases culminating in $10 per hour. Secondly, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 will be amended to allow for much larger punitive fines for companies found guilty of discrimination. The current caps will at least be doubled, if not tripled for large companies. It will also make it easier to file class action law suits.

I predict that the Employee Free Choice Act and two of the compensation pieces will be passed and made effective July 1, 2009. Other passed legislation will be effective January 1, 2010 and the minimum wage law will be effective July 24, 2010 as the last increase of the current legislation is reached.

The above scenario assumes a Democrat as President. If Obama is elected there will be no veto of the above legislation since Senator Obama has already supported all this legislation. If Senator McCain is elected there will be vetos in most, if not all, cases. However, with the gains for Democrats mentioned above there is a much greater liklihood of a veto overturn.

Regardless of the outcome of the Presidency battle, 2009 promises to be a very busy one for HR professionals. Unions will certainly be a much great “threat” and the compensation legislation will be a virtual nightmare for HR job analysts and compensation professionals.

We will check back later in the year to see how “Swami” Haberman has done.

3 thoughts on “What The Future of HR Looks Like in 2009”

  1. Michael:

    Great post on the potential impact of the election on employment laws. One additional scenario involves the impact of big Democratic wins in the House, Senate and the Presidency. Republicans only way to stop legislation would be a filibuster in the Senate. Senate rules allow a senator, or a series of senators, to speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose. This can only be stopped by a vote for cloture which requires a supermajority of three-fifths of the Senate (60 Senators, if all 100 seats are filled). Filibusters have a long history in blocking employment laws. There is a good explanation on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filibuster#United_States

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