3 HR Takeaways from the Midterm Elections

Employers should expect to see more worker-friendly bills after the new Congress convenes in January.
By: | November 7, 2018 • 2 min read
midterm elections

As many pundits predicted, Democrats recaptured the House for the first time in eight years in yesterday’s midterm elections, while Republicans strengthened their grasp on the Senate. So what does this development mean for employers?

While it is too soon to tell what will happen next, says Steve Wojcik, vice president of public policy at the National Business Group on Health, it is likely the Democratic-led House will look to push a number of healthcare issues to the front burner in 2019, including:

    • Expanding upon the ACA, improving the public exchanges and expanding Medicaid;
    • considering some type of expanded role for Medicare;
    • building upon efforts to control prescription drug prices; and
    • considering paid-employee-leave legislation.

“Whatever legislation passes the House may not gain Senate approval,” he cautions, “and if it does, it will likely be modified before anything goes to the President’s desk.”

Nonetheless, he says, “we believe that repeal of the excise tax on employer plans, which has bipartisan support and is an employer plan priority, will also be on the agenda.”

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Meanwhile, the good folks at Fisher Philips have compiled a list of issues they expect to see in the labor- and employment-law arena after yesterday’s elections, including:

1. Worker-Friendly Bills Expected To Pass The House…Then Stall In The Senate

Democratic lawmakers, eager to repay the support they received that vaulted them into power, are expected to introduce and pass a slew of of worker-friendly measures in the House. It would not be surprising to see newly installed members of Congress swiftly pass a series of bills aimed directly at employers. Among them, you might see a repeal of the Epic Systems case that cleared the use of class waivers, a full-scale prohibition on mandatory arbitration agreements, measures to limit right-to-work laws, a passage of card-check provisions to streamline union organizing, a return of the expansive persuader rule, the expansion of the worker-friendly ABC test for determining independent-contractor status, and a boosting of the federal minimum wage towards $15 per hour.

However, most of these actions would be largely symbolic and would amount to nothing in the end. The Republican Party continues to control the Senate, and in fact expanded its slim margin of power in yesterday’s election. There is almost no scenario imaginable where any of these measures would clear the Senate hurdle, although a more moderate increase to the federal minimum wage might not be out of the question.

2. House Members Could Throw Their Weight Around

This isn’t to say that the new Democratic House would be completely powerless, however. Indeed, many congressional candidates ran on a platform to provide a check on the Republican leadership in the White House and Congress, and they will look to fulfill their campaign pledges once in office. By using their power to seek additional information, hold hearings, and levy more control over executive activity, the new House could provide sufficient oversight over several federal agencies—namely the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board—to slow down their agenda.

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Expect to see the USDOL’s effort to provide a more balanced overtime rule and the NLRB’s move to return the joint-employment rule to a more measured level both caught up in the political turmoil that will descend on the nation’s capital.

3. New House Leadership Could Turn Attention To Labor And Employment Matters

Chatter among those in the know would seem to indicate that Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) will be the new Chair of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. He currently serves as the minority ranking member, and many believe his tenure on the committee will lead his fellow Democrats on the committee to install him into the top position once the new Congress is sworn in this coming January. He is widely regarded as a progressive member of the House and would probably bring his philosophy to matters of federal labor and employment law.

According to the Fisher Philips alert, “a divided Congress that is unable to pass significant employment legislation—whether it be pro-employer or pro-worker—means that we are likely to continue to see the drive for legislative changes pursued at the state, or even local, government level.”

That means employers will likely continue to see a hodgepodge of local labor policies that vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, which can pose compliance challenges if your organization operates across large areas or multiple regions.

Click here to read the full Fisher Philips list.

Web Editor Michael J. O’Brien has been with HRE for more than a decade and holds a degree in economics from Boston College. He can be reached at [email protected]

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