Stay in Touch to Keep Up With the Fast Pace of Rulings
By Ed Enoch
In his 1964 R&B ballad, Sam Cooke sang, “It’s been a long time coming, But I know a change is gonna come …”
Before his election, President Donald Trump promised that his administration would eliminate two rules for every rule it makes. What Trump failed to understand is that working inside the government is like going into the Upside Down in Stranger Things: Nothing works as you would think. In the world of federal regulations, to get rid of a rule you must make a new rule eliminating the old rule. And, by design, rule-making takes time.
President Barack Obama, stymied by a Republican Congress, used the Department of Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to push forward his employment law agenda. He had eight years to make rules. Now, Trump’s appointees are working hard to undo much of the work of the last administration.
One federal agency in particular, the Department of Labor, has become very active since the appointment of the new Secretary of Labor. While rulemaking takes time, issuing guidance interpreting the current laws and rules can happen quickly. So, much of the changes taking place in employment law are happening through opinion letters produced by agency staff.
Obama’s administration used agencies to greatly expand the reach of labor laws to affect the relationship between employers and employees through social media policies, rules on employee handbooks and even the fundamental definition of an employer. The new administration is now in the process of undoing many of these policies.
Here is the danger.
Department of Labor opinion letters or NLRB rulings rarely make the news. So, change will come and you will not even know it. That is why, particularly in times as volatile as these, it is important to keep in close contact with the professionals who work in this field all the time: either your professional human resources staff or an employment law attorney. Have someone in your office subscribe to the Department of Labor, EEOC and NLRB e-blasts that go out multiple times a week.
At least then you will get a heads up that change is coming, and you can engage the professionals to be prepared.