With President-Elect Donald J. Trump set to take office this Friday, January 20, there may be numerous changes to U.S. labor policy on the horizon.
Trump, who during his campaign pledged to roll back regulations on businesses, will have the benefit of Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, potentially enabling him to take quick action on a number of policy items. Although it’s difficult to say for sure what this will look like, it appears likely that the incoming president will push back against some of the more worker-friendly policies of current President Barack Obama.
In December, Trump nominated Andrew Puzder, a former fast food industry executive, as his Secretary of Labor. Puzder has been a vocal opponent of movements like the push to raise the minimum wage, and he generally believes that businesses are over-regulated across the United States.
One of the more immediate impacts we are likely to see in a Trump administration is the complete suspension of the overtime exemptions that had been set to take effect back in December. The Department of Labor’s new exemptions were supposed to nearly double the minimum salary required for white-collar employees to qualify for overtime pay. However, in late November, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction on the rule’s implementation.
The rule, which would impact more than 4 million workers throughout the United States and its territories, could be suspended or completely reversed under a Trump administration.
Equal pay and immigration issues in question
One interesting development to watch with the new administration will be pay equity. While Trump has expressed support for legislation that would require employers to provide equal pay for equal work, Vice President-Elect Mike Pence and other top Republicans have publicly opposed these measures. The question thus becomes whether the president will push back against his own party to support pay equity.
When it comes to immigration, Trump has signaled that he would push for a national E-Verify program, which is now only required of private employers in 20 states. It may also become more difficult for businesses to secure H1-B visas for highly skilled workers, and I-9 audits could become more commonplace. All this has businesses that employ large numbers of immigrant workers concerned about their ability to hire and retain staff members in the near future.
This is certainly a time of upheaval in the world of immigration and employment law in the United States and its territories. We will continue to monitor these issues in the months to come, and advise our numerous clients on how they should prepare for and react to policy changes as they occur. If you have any questions about these issues and how they could impact your business or organization, be sure to contact an experienced attorney.
Ravinder S. Nagi is Assistant Managing Attorney and Chair of the Labor and Employment Law Practice Group at BoltNagi, a well-established and respected labor law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.