Employers should expect increased enforcement of key federal employment laws and the potential expansion of state paid leave programs if Congress funds the White House's budget priorities.
In his budget request for fiscal year 2014 released April 10, President Obama is seeking $243 million for the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the US Department of Labor, which is responsible for enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and other statutes.
That represents an increase of about $15 million over the previous fiscal year, which will go toward:
Increased enforcement of the FLSA and FMLA ($3.4 million);
Investigations of workers who are misclassified as independent contractors ($3.8 million); and
The development of a new integrated enforcement and case management system ($5.8 million).
The new enforcement and case management system would allow the WHD's investigators to "capture higher quality and more timely data to analyze trends in labor law violations, target investigations and compliance assistance efforts, and evaluate the impact and quality of enforcement," according to a DOL budget summary.
The White House also is seeking $5 million for a new State Paid Leave Fund that would provide grants for states to plan and start up state family paid leave programs. Its goal is to help other states establish state-run insurance programs like those in California and New Jersey, which are financed by employer and/or employee contributions and offer up to six weeks of paid benefits to workers who take time off for FMLA-covered reasons such as caring for a seriously ill relative or newborn child.
Other aspects of the budget request that may be of interest to employers include requests for additional funding to:
Increase enforcement of the whistleblower protections under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and other laws enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ($5.9 million);
Help the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs narrow the pay gap between men and women, and ensure that federal contractors recruit, hire, and retain veterans and individuals with disabilities, among other things ($3 million); and
Bolster Mine Safety and Health Administration enforcement programs to pursue strategies that prevent death, disease and injury from mining ($5.8 million).
While Congress never grants everything for which a president asks, the request nevertheless represents an opening position for budget negotiations and an expression of the administration's overall funding priorities. XpertHR will continue to follow the budget process as it (slowly) unfolds.
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