President's FY 2022 Budget Proposal Boosts Labor and Employment Funding

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On May 28, President Biden released his $6 trillion budget proposal for the 2022 fiscal year. While final spending decisions are decided by Congress, the president’s budget submission typically provides a general idea of where the administration's priorities lie. President Biden’s budget includes two major proposals: the American Jobs Plan, which calls for new spending on infrastructure projects, and the American Families Plan, which calls for additional aid to low- and middle-income families.

In addition to the labor and employment initiatives within these proposals, the president’s budget includes funding boosts to the Department of Labor (DOL), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in order to ensure that “workers are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace.”

Department of Labor

The proposed budget provides a significant boost to the DOL’s funding from $12.5 billion to $14.2 billion, a 13.6% increase. Much of the funding is earmarked for the agency’s main enforcement divisions, with budget increases for the Wage and Hour Division (WHD – up $30 million to $276 million), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA – up $73 million to $664 million), the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA – up $67 million to $447 million), and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP – up $35 million to $141 million).

The president’s budget noted that the administration is committed to ending the “abusive practice of misclassifying employees as independent contractors,” and accordingly it has requested an additional 175 staff positions for enforcement. Furthermore, OSHA would see its inspector workforce increase significantly under President Biden, with a proposed 207 new enforcement positions and 63 within whistleblower programs.

Increased Personnel Hiring at the NLRB and EEOC

The NLRB’s requested budget of $301.9 million, a 10.1% increase from FY 2021, is largely intended to fortify its workforce after it was downsized during the Trump administration. Eighty-one percent of the requested budget is allocated for annual staff compensation, including 108 new field office positions and 13 new Board-side office staff members to maintain adequate staffing among mission support.

The EEOC’s proposed budget calls for the agency’s funding level to increase to roughly $446 million, a 10% bump from FY 2021. The budget calls for the EEOC to also play a role in the campaign against worker misclassification and will increase the agency’s total full-time staff to about 2,260 for FY 2022, with additional lawyers, investigators, and mediators coming on board.

Next Steps

The proposed budget was hailed by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, noting that the proposal “restore[s] the department’s capacity to protect the health, safety, rights and financial security of all workers.”  Despite the positive feedback from Democratic lawmakers, the budget spending levels will still have to be approved by a very narrowly divided Congress, which often has different spending priorities in mind.  Littler’s WPI will keep you apprised of relevant developments.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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