Business in United States should expect more government regulation

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 Government by Executive Order

There is an important story about possible new initiatives aimed at employers running in the Wall Street Journal today.     If you haven’t seen the story titled Government by Executive Order, you can read it in its entirety here .  Registration may be required.  If you prefer the Cliff’s notes version, here are some of the highlights about how DOL is greaing up to “push the country to a better place” by using Executive Order from the White House and enforcement action to alter the rules on how business in America operates.

More Stringent Rules for Business

On Sept. 22, Labor’s Office of the Solicitor—which employs 400 attorneys to enforce the nation’s labor laws—issued a draft “operating plan” to dramatically increase pressure on employers. A source inside the department says the plan has been adopted.

Patricia Smith, who heads the solicitor’s office, told me in an interview yesterday that the plan is a “living document” that will “never be finalized.”

Whatever its status, it includes the following items as possibilities:

  • Identify a public affairs liaison in each Regional Office” to “send stronger, clearer messages to the regulated community about DOL’s emphasis on litigation.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) division will be to “deter [employers] through shaming.” Ms. Smith told me she didn’t know what that means. But whatever it might involve, it doesn’t sound appropriate for an agency charged with carrying out the law in an even-handed fashion.
  •  Engage in enterprise-wide enforcement, including targeting multiple work sites of the same company,  visits by multiple agencies on the same day such as the Wage and Hour Division and from OSHA, and  shorter deadlines for implementing remedial measures in conciliation agreements and consent decrees.
  • Greater use of injunctive relief, which means using court injunctions rather than fines to enforce compliance.
  • Identify and pursue test cases that stretch current laws.

While the Department of Labor prepares for a hyper-aggressive enforcement strategy against business, it has rolled back Bush-era reforms mandating greater union transparency. Just this week the department rescinded its Form T-1, which required unions to report on strike funds and other accounts under union control.

None of this bodes well for employers in the United States.  As always, if you are an HR practitioner, I urge you to stay aware of these developing actions, and prepare your company ahead of time so that you can be in the best possible situation if you should be subject to more stringent enforcement.

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