Much has been written recently about the first 100 days of the Trump Administration. Some would argue that little of significance has changed in the employment regulation world. But, the confirmation on April 27, 2017 of new Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta squeaked through the door just before the first 100 days concluded and it could be an initial step towards the sort of employment regulation reform that many in the business community have been expecting.
Secretary Acosta will lead the Department of Labor (DOL), the cabinet department responsible for, among other agencies, the federal Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The WHD regulates minimum wage and overtime compliance, including the related exemptions and FMLA compliance. Of course OSHA regulates workplace safety and the OFCCP enforces affirmative action requirements for federal contractors and subcontractors. Clearly, Secretary Acosta will have an opportunity to impact significant areas of employment regulation, though the specific impact remains to be seen. The new Secretary’s early public remarks understandably have been general and focused on broadly-stated objectives to preserve and return jobs. But will the path to that aim include significant changes in existing and proposed employment regulations?
Some predict that Secretary Acosta will be determined to roll back some of the Obama administration’s regulatory initiatives that were controversial in the business community. On the one hand, steps taken to reduce employment regulation would seem consistent with the Trump agenda to relax restrictions on American business. On the other hand, much of President Trump’s support in the election was found in a populist, worker-centric voter base. That might lean the new Secretary away from initiatives that too greatly reduce worker rights.
At a minimum, one can reasonably speculate that the initiative to significantly increase the minimum salary for the wage/hour administrative exemptions, which is currently the subject of a federal court injunction, will be taken off track or at least significantly changed. Many predict a much more modest increase in the minimum salary will be proposed by the new DOL administrators. Some anticipate that OSHA will revisit the controversial rule requiring electronic reporting of workplace injury data. That rule is already in place, though the first deadlines for reporting are not until July 2017. So far there have been no specific steps taken to alter those obligations.
Whether significant changes in the employment regulatory field can be anticipated remains very much a question. It did not seem during the first 100 days that the Trump administration was determined to march quickly and forcefully into the employment field. It may be that changes in the employment regulation area will come slowly and by more gradual means including rule making and changes in case law.