As we settle into the new year, I would like to share a few thoughts about what I believe is in store for us in 2019.
2019 Federal Legislation
It is unlikely there will be any new federal legislation in the next two years, with one exception. There has been some talk among the Republicans supporting a federal paid family leave. With Ivanka Trump being a close advisor to President Trump, it is possible that a federal paid leave statute could be enacted in 2019.
Local and State Government
In contrast to the federal landscape, we will continue to see increased regulation on the local and state level. I think we can expect to see more local governments enacting scheduling and sick and safe time ordinances, which will make it all the more difficult for employers which have offices or do business in other states. We will probably also see more counties and states increasing minimum wage beyond the federal minimum wage.
Multi-Employer Pension Plans
Multi-employer pension plans are creating a cloud looming over many construction and other companies. It has been estimated that over 10 million workers and retirees are covered by multi-employer pension plans. Many of these multi-employer pension plans are underfunded, if not insolvent, and it has been estimated that plans are underfunded by a total of $48.9 billion. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is a government insurance company that is intended to provide financial support for underfunded pension plans. The PBGC predicts that it will run out of money by 2025. A special Congressional committee was appointed to investigate new legislation regarding pension reform. 2019 may be the year in which Congress enacts legislation to save the PBGC as well as employees and retirees who participate in underfunded pension plans.
National Labor and Relations Board
I think we are going to see the NLRB continue its retreat from decisions made under the Obama administration. The NLRB is already considering revising the quicky election rules and the joint employer standard promulgated under President Obama. The NLRB has issued decisions which allow employers to have certain work rules and policies which the Obama NLRB disallowed. We should expect to see more employer-friendly decisions from the NLRB than we have seen previously.
The Me Too Movement
Obviously, the Me Too Movement has resulted not only in increased media attention on sexual harassment but in more claims of sexual harassment. In 2018, the EEOC filed 41 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment, which is a 50% increase from the previous year. The EEOC also stated that it has recovered nearly $70 million through either litigation or settlement of charges of sexual harassment claims. This increase in sexual harassment claims is most likely going to continue into 2019.
Lastly, the operative word in employment law in 2019 is training. Employees and supervisors need to be continuously trained on harassment, protected class discrimination and employer policies on equal employment, to name just a few. Employers will use new approaches in training, and there will be a focus on civility and respect, not just the legal definitions of protected class harassment.
These are just a few of the developments we can expect to see in 2019. I hope you all have a prosperous and productive year.