Obama on labor law: Preparing for change

As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take his place in the White House, businesses across the country are considering what impact his plans will have on their organizations in the coming years.

In our existing unpredictable market, businesses should be prepared for impending changes related to wages, immigration, taxes, health care, executive compensation and benefits, civil rights and an inevitable increase in worker unionization, according to Littler Mendelson, the nation’s largest employment and labor law firm representing management, in a recent article.

“The combination of President Obama, with an electoral mandate for change from the voters, large Democratic gains in both houses of Congress, and the declining economy, sets the stage for a wave of legislative and regulatory proposals intended to protect workers in these troubled times,” Jay Sumner, a Washington, DC-based attorney at Littler said. “In the first 100 days and over the next four years, American businesses should anticipate significant changes.

“Those companies that educate themselves and prepare to navigate the changed labor and employment landscape will survive and prosper, and they should have a competitive edge over those that are caught unprepared,” said Sumner in a recent article.

Here are the most important employment law issues we’ll be watching after Obama takes office in 2009:

Unions - The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), designed to make it easier for unions to organize, is the top item on the labor agenda. Obama has already pledged to sign EFCA into law once passed.

Health care - Experts predict that the Obama Administration will explore avenues to keep the current employer-provided health care system in place. Obama’s health care plan would require employers to provide health care benefits or pay a percentage of payroll to support public health care.

Immigration - The new administration will push to increase enforcement of immigration laws and hold negligent employers accountable for disregard of immigration laws and employing undocumented workers. Obama is likely to agree with past proposals requiring government contractors to use E-Verify and could extend the program if accuracy and funding issues are settled.

Minimum Wage - Obama has pledged to increase minimum wage and index it to inflation.

Time off - The Obama Administration wants to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to cover smaller employers, those with 25 or more employees, and permit leave for more reasons. Obama and Congress are also considering paid FMLA leave, mandatory sick leave and flexible work arrangements.

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