Changes in Employment and Labor Landscape in Trump Administration

February 9, 2017

The new presidential administration is expected to have a significant impact on the employment and labor regulatory and enforcement landscape. While it’s yet unclear exactly what the impact will be, experts in human resources are anticipating a more employer-friendly shift and a change in course from the Obama administration’s priorities.

The shift began with an Inauguration Day memo sent from the President Trump’s Chief of Staff Reince Priebus directed all federal agencies to freeze pending regulations, including labor and employment initiatives that were in the works at the end of the Obama administration. Federal agencies were instructed to postpone newly published, but not yet enacted, regulations for 60 days. The delay will almost certainly impact the Department of Labor’s overtime rule that was to take effect on Dec. 1, but was halted pending the result of an appeal to a federal court injunction in November.

Then, during the first days of President Trump taking office, he named conservative Republican Victoria Lipnic, who has served as a commissioner on the EEOC since 2010, to serve as acting chair of the EEOC, succeeding Democrat Jenny Yang. The appointment suggests that the commission may reverse course on some of its opinions during the previous administration. Her appointment may signal a shift in Title VII enforcement in the workplace, particularly where it has applied to sex discrimination. Lipnic had dissented in Lusardi v. Dep’t of the Army, and disagreed that it is sex discrimination to prohibit transgender people from using restrooms corresponding to their identified gender.

Likewise, in the Department of Labor, changes are expected under Trump’s nominee Andy Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants. Puzder is has been cited in the media as being opposed to minimum wage increases and has been critical of some of the worker protections enacted under Pres. Obama.

Some of the issues worth watching during the coming months as new leadership takes the reins in Washington:

  • Discrimination and harassment law, including recent EEOC guidance on transgender and sexual orientation discrimination, retaliation and national origin discrimination
  • EEOC rules related to EEO-1 reports, which require employers to report specific compensation data
  • The Department of Labor’s Rules related to FLSA exemptions
  • Classification of workers as independent contractors
  • OSHA rules related to drug and alcohol policies
  • The impact on recent National Labor Relations Board decisions on joint employers, union organizing and the definition of protected concerted activity

Contributed by Scott Eldridge, Principal, Miller Canfield.