How Will the 2016 Elections Impact Labor and Employment Policy?

UWe’re all still recalibrating after last Tuesday’s election results. While the citizenry ponders what this means for the country and the issues dear to us, the impact on labor and employment policy is a top consideration for business-focused organizations like ours.

Harold P. Coxson of the law firm Ogletree Deakins articulated some thoughts in a blog post just after election night:

What do last night’s election results mean for labor and employment policy? In the first place, it means that Republicans will control the White House and both the House and Senate.

For another, it means that President-elect Trump will select the candidate for the current vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States, as well as seats on the 12 federal circuit courts, only four of which remain under the control of judges appointed by Republican presidents.

It also means that President-elect Trump will fill the two vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board with two Republicans, thus switching majority control of the agency on his first days in office. The NLRB’s record of historic reversals of long-established labor law precedent in areas such as joint-employment, independent contractors, waivers of class and collective actions in arbitration agreements, “ambush” union elections and micro bargaining units will, over time, be reversed.

It means the appointment of other key policy positions throughout the federal labor agencies, including the Secretary of Labor, Solicitor of the U.S. Department of Labor, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, and Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. They, in turn, will be expected to roll back or recall many of the controversial labor and employment regulations, such as the recently issued Part 541 overtime regulation, the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces (government contractor “blacklisting”) executive order and implementing regulations, and the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act’s revised “persuader activity” regulations.

The election results also represent an opportunity for Congress to promulgate regulations and pass legislation that would represent responsible immigration policy on a path to earned legalization of undocumented workers and that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

As a result of last night’s elections, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will likely remain with Sen. Alexander (R-TN) rather than Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The House Education and the Workforce Committee will be chaired by Rep. Virginia Fox (R- NC) with Rep. Bobby Scott (D- VA) likely to remain as Ranking Democrat.

Whether the election results will bring about greater bipartisanship and less political acrimony and gridlock remains to be seen. However, with Republicans controlling the White House and Congress, those angry voters who complained that “nothing ever gets done in Washington” will expect better.

Happy Veterans Day! Did You Know Tax Credits are Available for Hiring Veterans?

37738634Veterans, National Guard Members and Reservists remain key assets in helping meet workforce needs.

A free publication for employers, prepared for the Center for America, provides clear and concise understanding along with step-by-step guidance on four new federal tax credit programs: Returning Heroes; Wounded Warrior; Activated Military Reservist Credit for Small Businesses; and the Federal Empowerment Zone Employment Credit.

The guide includes links to the required Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor forms employers need to submit. It features key eligibility and filing details, with guidance on eligibility and the specific steps to take to claim the credits.

American Jobs for America’s Heroes is a nonprofit campaign sponsored by Phillips 66 and foundations to encourage employers to post full-time jobs for veterans, National Guard members and Reservists. Access the guide and additional information.

Engage Indiana: Event Shines Light on Using Business for Good

logo-400Our BizVoice magazine has highlighted corporate social responsibility throughout 2016. Here are some of those articles to date:

Prominent speakers will also be on hand Nov. 18 in Indianapolis at the Engage Indiana event to discuss the benefits of effective community engagement and advocacy strategy on the bottom line. Find out more information and register online.

Misclassification of Workers and Cost of Surety Bonds Debated

The second meeting of the Interim Study Committee on Employment and Labor took place recently. Committee members discussed a proposal offered by Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) that would address some concerns related to the misclassification of workers specific to the construction industry. Her proposal would create a payroll fraud task force that would identify those commercial and industrial construction projects in which payroll fraud or employee misclassification is suspected of occurring.

The task force would assess investigative and enforcement methods. Additionally, the group would supervise and direct an investigator hired by the Department of Labor (DOL) and assigned to the task force to conduct investigations and enforcement activities.

The task force would consist of the commissioners from the DOL, the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the Department of Revenue (DOR), plus the chair of the Worker’s Comp Board. A task force fund would be created as result of penalties and interest assessed against employers that would be used to administer the investigations. Most of the public did not have access to a copy of the proposal until after the hearing.

The DOL testified that there was already a mechanism for fraud. A web site hosted by the DOL allows for online reporting of any suspected misclassification of workers. The information gets forwarded to the DOR, DWD and the Worker’s Comp board; these agencies then handle each tip accordingly, with all information remaining confidential. It was estimated that there are two to four reports per month. Committee Chair Rep. Doug Gutwein (R-Francesville) did not allow the proposal to be included in the recommendation report of the committee. It is anticipated that Sen. Tallian will draft similar legislation in the upcoming legislative session.

The committee also heard testimony from the Surety & Fidelity Association of America (SFAA) on the pricing of surety bonds on public works projects. As a licensed rating or advisory organization for the states, SFAA develops a manual of rating rules for surety bonds that their members may adopt. Bond companies may either file the rates advised by SFAA or file their own. SFAA serves as the statistical agent in Indiana for reporting premium and loss data to the Department of Insurance. The premium for a bond is based upon the construction contract. The surety’s assessment must take into account the size and scope of the underlying obligation and is designed to prevent defaults on construction projects.

The cost of surety bonds on public work projects is generally between .5% and 3% of the amount of the construction contract. From 2001 to 2014 the surety industry collected $380 million in premiums and assumed a total exposure of about $38 billion. Approximately $85.4 million was incurred in direct losses on those bonds during the same period. Representative Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne) suggested that Indiana might be able to self-insure on surety bonds and come out financially a little better. No action was taking on his suggestion.

Evaluating the Workplace Seating Chart

10061396After reading the following, people may start thinking about what category they fit in. And managers might consider some potential changes. The conclusions come from Harvard Business School researchers.

Placing the right mix of workers in close proximity to each other can generate up to a 15% increase in organizational performance, according to a study from Cornerstone OnDemand.

The researchers determined that there are three types of employees: productive, generalist and quality. Productive workers get work done quickly, but they don’t necessarily get it done well. Quality workers produce stellar work, but they’re not the most productive people in the office. And generalist employees are average in terms of both productivity and quality.

The study’s authors found that the impact on productivity and effectiveness is most pronounced when employees who are strong in one area but weak in another sit near each other. Specifically, seating “productive” and “quality” workers together and seating “generalists” separately in their own group shows a 13% gain in productivity and a 17% gain in effectiveness. “In short, symbiotic relationships are created from pairing those with opposite strengths,” the study’s authors wrote.

While the impact of seating employees close to each other happens almost instantly, the effects aren’t long lasting if the two groups are eventually separated. Once separated, the positive impact the employees had on each other usually goes away within two months, according to the study.

Immigration Matters Continue to Be Debated in Summer Study

The Senate Select Committee on Immigration Issues met recently for its fourth meeting. An interesting presentation was provided to legislators by the former director of the statistics division of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

National undocumented immigrant information was provided to the committee along with more specific information for Indiana. Of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., 106,300 reside in Indiana. That number represents 1.6% of Indiana’s total population.

Marion County, primarily in Wayne and Decatur townships, had the largest population of undocumented immigrants with 12,200; Elkhart and Lake counties came in second and third with 9,400 and 6,100 undocumented immigrants, respectively. Approximately 71,000 overall are in the labor force with 21,500 working as operators, fabricators and laborers, with another 19,100 working in services positions. Sixty percent or 64,200 have lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years and 77,600 (73%) are between the working ages of 18 and 44. Information on origin of birth was also provided with 67,700 (61%) coming from Mexico.

The committee also heard testimony from Goshen College about unauthorized immigrant students. It was reported that since July 1, 2011, Indiana has prohibited resident tuition rates and state financial aid for undocumented students. Eighteen states, Illinois being one, allow in-state tuition for undocumented students.

Goshen College has provided scholarship aid for undocumented students for the past eight years. During the 2015-2016 academic year, Goshen provided $123,000 in aid for these students. The next hearing is scheduled for September 21. It is uncertain as to what the committee will decide to do with the information garnered from the four previous hearings and the three yet to be held. The Indiana Chamber will continue to be involved in these discussions.

Beyond the Bicentennial: Chamber Outlines Policy Recommendations for 2016 Candidates

Indiana has many advantages as a leading location to operate a business, raise a family or enjoy a high quality of life. But still more needs to be done to improve that climate and to keep pace with other cities and states, says the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The organization unveiled today its six-week Beyond the Bicentennial campaign (going beyond the state’s first 200 years). It focuses on the “most potentially impactful public policies” and is directed foremost at the major party gubernatorial candidates, John Gregg and Eric Holcomb.

The Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan, first introduced in 2012, serves as the campaign blueprint. “The Indiana Vision 2025 economic drivers present a great opportunity to highlight initiatives that will benefit Indiana now and in the years ahead,” offers Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

The first of the four letters, also released today, emphasizes the Outstanding Talent driver. Recommendations focus on critical improvements at the K-12, postsecondary and workforce levels. In an annual survey earlier this year, 45% of responding employers indicated they had left jobs unfilled in the past year due to under-qualified applicants.

“Outstanding Talent is both the greatest challenge for our state and the area of most importance,” Brinegar states. “While businesses are rightfully concerned about their current and future workforces, for individuals we’re talking about the difference between happy, productive lives and what can amount to an economic death sentence if proper education and training are not received.”

The education/workforce needs range from greatly expanding the state’s pre-K pilot program to more students from low-income families, to assisting the more than 700,000 Hoosiers with some college but no credential or degree to gain the skills needed for a rapidly-evolving economy.

Concludes Brinegar, “We hope the recommendations and guidance in these letters will help the gubernatorial candidates and all lawmakers focus on what public policies could be the most impactful for Hoosiers.”

Additional Beyond the Bicentennial letters and accompanying videos will be made available on September 13 (Attractive Business Climate), September 27 (Superior Infrastructure) and October 11 (Dynamic & Creative Culture).

The Outstanding Talent releases are available now at www.indianachamber.com/letters.

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WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber spoke at our press event this morning: “We want to encourage employers to set the standard that talent matters.”

About Indiana Vision 2025
In 2012, the Indiana Chamber published Indiana Vision 2025, a comprehensive, multi-year initiative to provide leadership and a long-range economic development action plan for Indiana. The mission statement: “Indiana will be a global leader in innovation and economic opportunity where enterprises and citizens prosper.”

A 24-person statewide task force of business and organization leaders developed the original plan. Many from that group, with some additions, worked for four months earlier this year to review progress, update goals and metrics, and identify potential new research to enhance future Report Cards (progress on each of the now 36 goals under the four drivers is assessed every other year).

The Indiana Chamber thanks Duke Energy, NIPSCO, Old National Bank, Vectren and all the investors in Indiana Vision 2025.

Learn more about Indiana Vision 2025 at www.indianachamber.com/2025.

 

New Required Federal Poster Updates – Effective Immediately!

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It was recently announced that required updates have been made to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) posters (effective in August). We are now shipping our new poster sets that include these updates! Here are the changes reflected on our new sets:

  • FLSA: Effective August 1, 2016, a new FLSA poster is required. The update includes new information about the overtime rule, independent contractors and nursing mothers. Outdated fine information was also removed.
  • EPPA: Also effective August 1, the EPPA poster will be updated. Outdated fine information was also removed from this poster and contact information was updated.
  • FMLA: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) posting was updated in April 2016 to be more reader-friendly. This update is included in our latest sets.

You can purchase new sets online.

Or, are you tired of trying to keep up with poster changes? We’re happy to take the pressure off at no added cost. Just subscribe to the Indiana Chamber’s convenient, free subscription service online or by calling (800) 824-6885. You’ll get new posters whenever there’s a required update without even having to order! You’ll join hundreds of other Indiana businesses already benefiting from this service.