Published on: December 10, 2021
Authors: Daniel W. Chasen
Topics: Employment LawIn our final Future Workplace Policy Council Fall Conference webinar, comments by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) underlined how the relationship between the business community and Republicans has been complicated amid political polarization, even as cooperation toward better policy outcomes is more important than ever.
Senator Rubio expressed opposition to the Build Back Better reconciliation legislation and claimed companies’ commitment to the LGBTQ+ and racial equity is an empty response to social activism, drawing a connection between such activity and the growing Republican-business community divide. Yet, he also noted that “We need more creativity and collaboration if we are to fix the problems that we have in this country,” pointing to the work of the HR Policy Association as a prime example. Particularly, he pointed to his bill, the Teamwork for Employees and Managers (TEAM) Act, which is needed because “We have a broken labor relations system that is too adversarial.”
Johnna Torsone, FWPC Chair and CHRO at Pitney Bowes Inc., said “The business community approach in the areas of diversity, inclusion, and equity is driven by our people strategies as well as responding to consumer preferences. They have real business implications. This is an opportunity for the membership to educate lawmakers on Capitol Hill of these realities.”
HR Policy staff then discussed the policy challenges facing employers as we enter year three of the pandemic—and an election year. With an evenly divided Congress and election races looming, our panel predicted that 2022 will see several messaging bills and a slew of Biden administration actions of concern to employers. Some points of discussion:
- Questions surrounding the legality of the federal COVID vaccination mandates are unsettled, and will remain so into 2022, creating uncertainty for employers.
- The Build Back Better reconciliation measure faces stiff challenges in the Senate, including by the Senate Parliamentarian for many of its measures. However, several areas of importance, including a federal paid leave program, new and increased penalties for labor law violations, health care reforms, and funding for a new FTC Privacy Bureau, look to remain.
- Artificial intelligence in the workplace has become a priority for the Biden administration, with the EEOC, FTC, and White House all shifting focus to this emerging area.
Fast and furious: Once Build Back Better is in the rearview mirror, we can expect a flurry of activity from Congress and regulatory agencies during election season as we continue to face the ongoing pandemic. This fall we have heard from key policymakers, including from the OFCCP, EEOC, NLRB, DOL, and the U.S. Senate, as well as members and issue area experts, setting the stage for making an imprint on policy debates going forward.