With the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States and with the Democrats gaining seats in the House and Senate, some changes in employment law, including wage and hour law, could be coming in the next four years. Some changes that are reasonably foreseeable:
- Minimum Wage. Though the federal minimum has been increased in recent years, and moves to $7.25 per hour in 2009, greater increases in the federal minimum wage could follow.
- Sick Leave. The Obama administration is expected to push for new legislation requiring employers to provide at least seven days of annual paid sick leave to employees.
- Family and Medical Leave. The Obama administration is expected to expand the FMLA to cover more workers, including those employed by smaller firms (20-25 employees), and to cover a broader range of causes for leave.
- Equal Pay. Though Senate Republicans filibustered the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007, intended to overturn the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (2007) 550 U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 2162, 167 L.Ed.2d 982, decision, the Democrats will take up the cause again in 2009. The 5-4 opinion severely curtailed an employee's right to recover Title VII wage claims for violations of the Equal Pay Act. The losing plaintiff, Lilly Ledbetter, spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
- NLRB/NLRA: Union membership is below ten percent. That could change with the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, the RESPECT Act, and the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act. President Obama's appointees to the National Labor Relations Board are likely to be much more protective of unions and employees than the appointees of President Bush, who tended to favor management and employers.
- Executive compensation. Expect more executive compensation limitations, particularly in any future bailout legislation, including clawback provisions and bans prohibiting golden parachutes. Current restrictions are vague, prospective and limited in scope. Stronger regulations with more detailed limitations and a broader scope affecting existing contracts could pass.
- Arbitration. Expect to see a new effort to pass the Arbitration Fairness Act, an amendment to the Federal Arbitration Act in 1925, which would provide new procedures and limitations on pre-dispute mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer and employment contracts.
- ERISA. A key goal of the Obama administration will be the passage of a universal health care plan with guaranteed eligibility, comprehensive benefits, and affordable premiums and co-pays.
- Supreme Court appointments. Barack Obama mentioned Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer as examples of the kind of justice he would look for to fill vacancies in the SCOTUS. In the next four year, John Paul Stevens, 88, and Ginsburg, 75, are thought to be likely to retire. David Souter, 69, has expressed some interest in leaving Washington and returning to his home state of New Hampshire. Justices Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia are 72 years old.
If you see anything else on the horizon, leave a comment.