The U.S. Department of Labor had been rather quiet in recent months as it awaited the delayed confirmation of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. Now that Perez is finally at the helm, many labor experts say employers should brace for a flurry of new labor rules, stricter enforcement and more emphasis on worker rights.
"The general view of the business community is that there will be an activist, enforcement agenda," Michael Lotito, a San Francisco lawyer who represents employers in labor disputes, recently told the Associated Press. "That means there are going to be more lawsuits and the regulatory agenda is going to be alive and well."
Already since his assuming his post in July, Perez has been active: Just in time for Labor Day Weekend, the Labor Department introduced a new rule this week that requires federal contractors with generally at least 50 employees to set a goal of have people with disabilities make up at least 7 percent of their employees and veterans make up at least 8 percent (though that percentage would change depending on the overall number of veterans in the workforce). The ruling is significant because federal contractors employ nearly one-quarter of the U.S. workforce and the unemployment rate among disabled people is nearly double that of the general population, according to The Washington Post.
The Department of Labor also recently revised its guidance make sure that married same-sex couples will be eligible for time off from work if one spouse is injured or becomes seriously ill, according to The Hill.
The big question: What is next on Perez’s agenda?
According to an AP profile, Perez is a strong advocate of President Obama’s goal of increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour (though that would require Congressional authorization). Labor and business leaders also said they expect Perez will crack down on employers that misclassify workers as independent contractors in order to avoid paying minimum wage and overtime.
Perez has also been vocally supportive of extending minimum wage and overtime rules to the more than 2 million home health care workers who are currently exempt from those rules.
“For all too many people working minimum wage jobs, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity are feeling further and further apart,” Perez told the AP.
Perez also said he sees his major role as being to help bring down the 7.4-percent U.S. unemployment rate, as well as ramping up workforce training programs. Many employers have complained that too few workers have the skills they need to fill positions.“I talked to one CEO of a large manufacturer, and he said that too many people walking through the door who want a job don’t have the skills necessary to do the job,” Perez said.
Read more articles about labor laws.
Photo: Getty Images