Congress has been pretty dysfunctional the last couple of years. I mean by dysfunctional that they have not passed any employment related legislation. I am not necessarily saying that is a good thing or a bad thing. However, there are two pieces of legislation that seem to have the tide of opinion moving in their favor. Here are the next two pieces of federal legislation.
The Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA)
Back in January I wrote A Legislation Prediction- ENDA. I had told a class of HR students that I thought if any legislation had a chance in 2013 it would be ENDA. I told them this was for several reasons that included:
- President Obama refused to sign an executive order that would have required ENDA like regulations for federal contractors. He said that an executive order was not needed rather legislation was needed to cover the entire spectrum of workplaces.
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published its Strategic Enforcement Plan for 2013. Prominent in this plan is a new focus on lesbian, gay and transgender discrimination, despite the fact that there is no current federal law providing protection for the LGBT community.
- An increasing number of states are providing such protections in their legislation.
- Large companies, such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing and Northrop Grumman already have policies providing such protections, as do many other companies.
- Over the past 20 years there has been major shift in social attitudes toward the LGBT community with widespread acceptance becoming the norm in a large number of communities.
As a result of this kind of movement toward the legislation the Senate passed ENDA on November 7th. As with any piece of legislation like this there are proponents and they were happy with the passage. There are opponents and they are adamant that this is bad legislation. For an article on the proponent side you can read ENDA’s Game: Controversial Employment Law Passes in the Senate by Eric Reed. For the opponent point of view you can read ENDA Threatens Fundamental Civil Liberties – Analysis by Ryan Anderson. Regardless of which side you take the prediction is that the bill will not be voted on in the House of Representatives in this legislative year. However, 2014 may be a different story, depending heavily on what happens in the mid-term elections next year. My prediction is that even without a change in the balance of power this legislation will have a good chance of passing.
The second piece of legislation that may pass soon is a new minimum wage bill. With all of the very visible protests in New York City of fast food workers and workers at Walmart locations around the country Senate majority leader Harry Reid is feeling embolden about introducing a minimum wage bill in the Senate. In addition to the protests in early November elections resulted in the minimum wage being increased in the Seattle area and in New Jersey and in early September the minimum wage was increased in California to $10 an hour. The tide seems to be turning with the general consensus being that $7.25 an hour in 2013 is just not a livable wage. There are certainly arguments for and against. It is a decision that you have to make on your own. But I feel this is that second piece of employment based legislation that will pass in 2014. It will be a phased in process probably over a three year period that would ultimately arrive at $10.10 per hour. Ultimately it is the consumer who will pay for this. We will all pay a bit more for a burger or a cup of coffee, but from my consumer standpoint I am ready to absorb a bit more for others to make a bit more.
We will see
There are my predictions for legislation. I think the likelihood for both of these to pass is good in 2014. Those of us in HR need to be preparing our implementation strategy for this eventuality.