The Washington Post reports that newly confirmed Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, is expected to push for a wide range of tougher workplace regulations. This has business cringing and organized labor applauding.
The Department, reportedly, has a file full of regulatory schemes that have languished for two years or more due to election year politics and the delay in naming a replacement for Hilda Solis, Mr. Perez’s predecessor.
The consensus is that Perez will be an “activist Secretary” based on his track record. At Justice Department he played a leading role in challenging voter identification laws in Texas and South Carolina. He was also particularly aggressive in pursuing housing discrimination cases. As the Secretary of Labor in Maryland, Perez was known for going after companies that, allegedly, misclassified workers as independent contractors to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime.
One of the Labor Department’s new rules proposes to require federal government contractors to set a goal to have disabled workers comprise 7% of their workforce. Business groups are concerned that this target is too ambitious and conflicts with existing laws that discourage employers from asking about a job applicant’s disability.
Another recommendation will require employers to take “affirmative action” to hire and promote veterans.
At a time when the Obama Administration is working to contain health care costs, it is expected that Perez will push for the extension of minimum wage and overtime pay rules to cover more than two million home health care workers who are now exempt.
Some of the more controversial rule proposals deal with labor union organizing efforts and allowing union officials to take part in safety inspections at non-union companies. One specific item triggering strong opposition in the business community will require employers to disclose the names of the attorneys and consultants they retain to advise them during labor organizing campaigns. If this rule is adopted, unions will know the identity of what they refer to as “union busting” firms and how much those firms are being paid. Employers believe union leaders will use such information publically to influence workers during an organizing effort.
Richard J. Kinney
Dick Kinney has over 30 years corporate management experience. He has served as an advisor to business and state government on management and public policy issues.