United States: Omnibus Speeds Throuagh (Beltway Buzz, March 23, 2018)

The Beltway Buzz is a weekly update summarizing labor and employment news from inside the Beltway and clarifying how what's happening in Washington, D.C. could impact your business.


Omnibus Speeds Through. More than six months into the current fiscal year, earlier today President Trump signed a massive omnibus spending bill that will fund the federal government through September 30. This means that a government shutdown was avoided and we will all be spared these frequent funding crises, at least until September. Gluttons for punishment can read the 2,232-page bill here. Labor and employment issues relevant to the bill include the following:

  • Left out of the omnibus bill is language fixing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) situation, legislation to stabilize health insurance markets, as well as a joint-employer fix.
  • Most of the labor/employment agencies (e.g., the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)) kept current spending levels or received modest increases. In the magical world of federal government accounting, these levels of funding are actually seen as spending reductions, but they aren't the massive cuts that the administration asked for.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), on the other hand, got a $15-million increase "to address the increased workload associated with sexual harassment claims." Credit Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic for securing additional funding to address a vitally important issue (not to mention her role on the EEOC's task force on harassment, as well as in spearheading the Commission's new Respectful Workplaces training program for employers).
  • Addressing the current imbroglio over the DOL's tip-pooling proposal is language amending the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which states, "An employer may not keep tips received by its employees for any purposes, including allowing managers or supervisors to keep any portion of employees' tips, regardless of whether or not the employer takes a tip credit." Employers that violate the provision will be subject to civil penalties and liquidated damages.

Hal Coxson has the gory details here.

Joint-Employer Saga Continues. These days, one brief mention of the dramatic joint-employer issue is simply not enough for the Buzz. So we can't help but highlight the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation's FOIA request filed with the Board earlier this week. The request seeks internal information, documentation, and communications leading to the Board's return to its unfortunate 2015 joint-employer standard. This story is far from over, and the Buzz will continue to watch closely.

EEOC GC Nominee. On March 19, the president nominated Sharon Fast Gustafson to be general counsel (GC) of the EEOC. The nomination is long overdue, as the GC position has been vacant since December of 2016. The Buzz is hopeful that, if confirmed, Gustafson will take steps to centralize more of the Commission's litigation authority with her office and with the commissioners themselves. A confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Fast-Tracking of H-1B Petitions Halted. On March 20, USCIS announced that it will suspend premium processing of H-1B visa petitions. The announcement comes almost one year to the day after the administration's last suspension of the fast-track approval process for H-1B visas. Lee Gibbs Depret-Bixio has the details on the most recent action.

OSHRC Seeks Public Input. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) issued an invitation to file amicus briefs in a case involving an alleged violation of the general duty clause and whether employees were exposed to excessive heat. Briefs are due on April 30.

SnowFlake. A few years ago, an omnibus spending bill lifted a ban on sledding on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building—a practice that had been outlawed since 1876. After the recent snowstorm in D.C., the Capitol Building was again the scene of a snowy political clash. This time, it was a snowball "duel" between senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). Flake, who was born in Snowflake, AZ, had an obvious eponymous advantage over the senator from New Jersey. Booker lost and had to buy pizza for Flake's staff.

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