Looming Changes to Fair Labor Laws Could Profoundly Reshape American Economy

The Obama administration’s recent push for stronger labor laws has sparked an intense national conversation over what constitutes fair treatment and fair pay for workers.

Federal agencies, supported by the administration, recently brought a major case against McDonald’s, which we discussed in detail in a previous blog post. The fast-food giant has been charged with labor-law violations and coercive tactics to silence employees. Critics claim executives exploited and extended labor elections to deny union formation among McDonald’s employees. Some dubious company practices, like monitoring employees’ email accounts for hints of union organizations in off-hours, have now stopped. The case has the potential to influence labor regulations concerning pay, overtime, and healthcare.

The suit against McDonald’s is just one piece of important news, though. Promising new technological advances may soon streamline the processes by which workers can enforce and collect back pay. Additionally, legislation proposed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) may improve the way employees who work over 40 hours a week are compensated. If such legislation passes, more workers will qualify for time-and-a-half pay for overtime.

Advocates at the NLRB have set their sites on the following major targets for change:

  • Benefits. Employers currently classify 10–30% of the middle class as “independent contractors” to avoid obligations to provide healthcare and other protective benefits. A push for worker’s rights could lead to coverage for more of these individuals.
  • A decrease in government subsidies. NLRB studies suggest that improvements to worker payment systems and structures could ultimately decrease the number of people who must resort to filing for government assistance.
  • Higher worker satisfaction. Poor job satisfaction leads to a diminished bottom line for companies. By improving labor environments and ensuring fair payment for a fair day’s work, we could see an increase in employee satisfaction… which in turn (somewhat ironically) could encourage employees to work harder for their companies.

Whether any substantial labor legislation (or executive orders affecting labor concerns) will pass any time soon is anyone’s guess. However, if you’re worried about your own work environment — and you suspect that your employer has committed discrimination, retaliation or a tip pool violation — seek the advice of the New York labor employment lawyers at Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP. Please call us at (212) 688-5640 for a free appraisal, or email info@jhllp.com.