Despite the initial focus on health care repeal, several lawmakers have introduced labor and employment-related legislation during the first two weeks of the new 112th Congress. Some aim to tweak existing laws, while others call for more massive overhauls. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), for instance, introduced a bill (H.R. 87) the first day of the new legislative term to repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act which was signed into law on July 21, 2010. This bill contains several employment related provisions dealing with executive compensation, arbitration, and whistleblower protections. Although the chances of repealing the Dodd-Frank Act are slim, greater scrutiny of and challenges to its implementation are expected.
A couple of bills deal with the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) reintroduced the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA) (H.R. 190). This bill would, among other things, amend the OSH Act by expanding its coverage, increasing whistleblower protections, enhancing employer penalties for violations, and providing rights to victims and their family members during the investigation process. Woolsey introduced the bill in the 111th Congress in April of 2009. Although PAWA failed to gain traction, its provisions were incorporated into and then subsequently removed from the Robert C. Byrd Mine and Workplace Safety and Health Act of 2010, which never achieved passage. Given the current congressional makeup, the reintroduced PAWA is not likely to progress any time soon.
Another safety and health-related bill (H.R. 128) introduced by Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) would direct the Secretary of Labor to revise regulations concerning the recording and reporting of occupational injuries and illnesses under the OSH Act. The bill would require site-controlling employers to keep a site log for all recordable injuries and illnesses for all employees on the particular site, whether they are employed directly by the site-controlling employer or are employed by contractors, employee leasing services, or are temporary workers. Green also introduced Labor Relations First Contract Negotiations Act of 2011 (H.R. 129), a measure that would amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to require the mediation and ultimately binding arbitration of initial contract negotiation disputes if not resolved within a prescribed period of time. Similar language was contained in the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which failed to advance during the 111th Congress. Like the OSH-related bill, this legislation is not likely to gain sufficient support this year.
In addition, Green introduced the Life Insurance Employee Notification Act (H.R. 130), which would require employers to disclose whether their employees’ life insurance coverage is employer-owned, and make the failure to do so an unfair and deceptive act or practice under the Federal Trade Commission Act.
On the immigration front, H.R. 43, introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the lottery-based diversity immigrant visa program and re-allocate those visas to certain employment-based immigrants who obtain an advanced degree in the United States. Legislation introduced by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) (H.R. 282) would require federal contractors to participate in the E-Verify employment verification program.
As the 112th Congress progresses, more labor and employment bills are certain to be introduced. Whether any of these bills gain traction is less certain.