Legal experts predict many labor- and workforce-related policies will shift under the Biden administration.
"We expect a lot of big changes," Mark Dopp, senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs at the North American Meat Institute, told the virtual 2021 Meat Industry Summit Wednesday.
Several federal agencies have new leaders, and experts say employers should expect to see a push for stronger workplace safety, higher wages and employee- and union-friendly policies.
Although the Biden administration will likely achieve some of its goals, experts say other proposals won't make it past the Senate or may be struck down in the courts.
New agency leaders
April 12, Biden nominated Doug Parker to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. Parker is currently chief of Cal/OSHA.
Parker is the second high-ranking official from the Golden State to be tapped for a top Labor Department position. In February, Biden nominated Julie Su, California's current labor secretary, to be deputy labor secretary.
"Su comes from the most aggressive employee-protective state in the country," said Jeremy Glenn, managing partner at Cozen O'Conner, specializing in labor law.
Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, the new Secretary of Labor, will also impact workplace issues. Walsh is a former union leader and has pledged to protect unions.
"Walsh has a very strong organized labor tie," said John Linker, partner at Akerman LLP and a pro-business lawyer.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces anti-discrimination laws, also has a new leader: Chair Charlotte Burrows, a former associate deputy attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Under Burrows, Linker predicts a 20% increase over the next few years in employees filing charges related to discrimination and retaliation from employers.
"There's no question the EEOC is going to be very aggressive," said Linker.
Law and policy changes
Glenn, of Cozen O'Conner, predicts the Biden administration will push for national pay data reporting, meaning some employers must report pay and hours-worked data, including workers' sex and ethnicity.
Glenn also expects labor officials to push for an expanded definition of "employee," meaning people performing services on a property may get more protections. Glenn encouraged business owners to have clear contractual agreements when outsourcing.
Linker, of Akerman LLP, said he expects Biden and Democratic members of Congress will continue pushing to raise the federal minimum wage, but with a tight Senate, no changes are likely anytime soon.
"I think it will continue to be a battleground issue for the Senate," he said.
Both Glenn and Linker expect OSHA will further strengthen workplace safety.
Labor Secretary Walsh recently paused development of an emergency temporary standard, or ETS, for COVID-19. Glenn said this could go one of three ways: Walsh will create the ETS, drop it, or develop a broader infectious diseases standard.
Glenn also predicts the National Labor Relations Board will give more power to unions.
"The environment is ripe for more union organizing," said Glenn.
But the Senate is expected to block radical proposals. And because former president Donald Trump appointed more than 200 federal judges while in office, some businesses may get favorable rulings in court.