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HR Policy Briefing 12/16/20


SHRM Is Working to Provide Leadership and Support for Brighter Days Ahead

As we close out a year of challenge, change, perseverance and resiliency, SHRM is working to provide HR professionals leadership and support to bring about brighter days—ones we know will come. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work with elected officials in Washington and across the country to address issues that will bring about better workplaces for a better world. Watch this video message to the profession from SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP.

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HR and Leadership Development Professionals at Rollins Inc. Demonstrate Resiliency

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HR professionals have played a critical role in leading their organizations through some of the toughest workplace challenges they’ve ever faced. Quentin Misenheimer is a SHRM member and HR managing director at Rollins Inc., a pest control services company headquartered in Atlanta that owns subsidiaries Orkin Inc., HomeTeam Pest Defense, Northwest Exterminating, Western Pest Services, The Industrial Fumigant Co., OPC and Crane Pest Control. Misenheimer, pictured below, recently shared with SHRM how HR professionals at his company have shown resiliency and truly stepped up to the plate during the COVID-19 pandemic:

“When the picture above of our Human Resources and Leadership Development leaders at Rollins Inc. was taken in January of 2020 in Atlanta, during our annual global operations leadership meeting, none of us knew what we would face this year. Whether we wanted it or not, the global COVID-19 pandemic thrust us into the center of a storm. We have faced many challenges as we have helped our business leaders navigate through this pandemic. As our team rose to the occasion to help our business leaders overcome those challenges, we took advantage of the opportunity to highlight the value a strong human resources team can and should bring to any business.

We have learned many valuable lessons this year. We learned that we have to be nimble. Reacting quickly to a rapidly changing environment is critical. We learned that we have to communicate more often and more effectively so that employees know what the company is doing and why. We learned that we have to think differently. Some of the processes we used in the past are no longer sufficient. We had to change, and we had to change quickly. There is no time to develop a perfect plan. We have to develop a good plan and execute quickly.

Most of all, we learned that we have to be resilient. The pandemic is relentless. Navigating through this is a journey. There is no overnight fix. We saw early that the situation would not be going away quickly. We had to dig in.

I could not be prouder of how our Human Resources and Leadership Development team has risen to the occasion, working tirelessly each day to protect our employees, their families and our customers.

We implemented new paid-leave policies with short notice. We partnered with Safety, Risk Management, Legal and Operations teams to implement new safety protocols to protect our employees and our customers. We developed global reporting capabilities within days of receiving a request from our executive team. We have reacted to various state requirements for daily health screenings and mandatory training. We partnered with our operations leaders to build remote work capabilities with teams that did not have that capability in February 2020. We brought more data analysis and insights to business leaders than we ever have before to help them make good and prudent decisions. Through it all, we have stayed focused on our core values: People, Professionalism and Progress. And we have stayed true to our company’s noble purpose: We protect the world where we live, work and play.

Working through this pandemic is a battle. It is a difficult journey. It is mentally and physically exhausting. That being said, it is a HUGE opportunity to make a difference. Our ability to be resilient has been a critical factor in our ability to do just that. We are making a difference every day. There is no team I would rather go into battle with every day than this team. Onward and upward!”

As we prepare for a new legislative session and new administration, public officials need to hear from HR professionals now more than ever about how your organizations are adjusting business practices and providing innovative solutions for the world of work. We want to hear from you.

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Tell us how your organization has been resilient.

SHRM Win: Court Order Upholds the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s OPT Program

On Nov. 30, District Judge Reggie B. Walton effectively denied a motion from the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech) challenging the legality of the Department of Homeland Security’s Optional Practical Training (OPT) program.

Under OPT, international students who graduate from an American institution may work in the country for 12 months—plus an extra 24 months if they are in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

In December 2019, SHRM joined other employers and business associations in filing an amicus brief that touted the critical importance of OPT. The brief highlighted the invaluable contributions of OPT participants as well as their positive impacts on businesses and the U.S. economy. Walton’s decision is a positive step forward for employers, universities and the international student community.

“Our staff needs to have educational backgrounds that include technical training. Our engineers who are nonimmigrant visa holders have the necessary educational backgrounds, from all U.S. institutions, and are able to provide solutions to our clients. We continue to struggle to find [the talent] to be able to successfully do the work we do.” —SHRM member

Judge Rules DACA Program Must Be Restored

On Dec. 4, Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program must be restored to the way it was prior to September 2017. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security must now inform the public that it is accepting both first-time DACA applications and renewal requests.

“Our country’s global talent pipeline makes vital contributions to our workplaces every day. As we face an uncertain job market and a growing skills gap, it’s imperative that workers educated and trained in the U.S. can contribute their unique talents to the American economy,” said Emily M. Dickens, SHRM chief of staff, head of government affairs and corporate secretary. “The decision to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is a positive, concrete step toward helping the country meet a crucial talent need, bolster the economy and spur job creation for years to come. Looking ahead to 2021, we urge Congress to pass bipartisan policy solutions that provide critical, work-authorized talent; protect American workers; and modernize workplace immigration.”

SHRM Files Comments in Response to DHS and DOL H-1B Rules

On Dec. 2 and Dec. 7, SHRM filed comments expressing concerns with proposed changes to the H-1B nonimmigrant visa category from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). 

DHS and DOL announced the interim final rules (IFRs) on Oct. 8. If promulgated, they will restrict H-1B qualifications and dramatically raise wage requirements for H-1B employees.

The DHS IFR titled “Strengthening H-1B” was set to take effect on Dec. 7. The DOL IFR on “Prevailing Wage” went into effect immediately. However, on Dec. 3, a federal judge ruled in favor of several leading research universities and national organizations who challenged the IFRs in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. 

The summary judgment set aside both regulations, acknowledging that they were issued on an emergency basis without proper notice and comment.

Getting Things Done in 2021: SHRM Meets with Congressman Jim Clyburn

On Dec. 8, SHRM’s President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, and Emily M. Dickens, SHRM chief of staff, head of government affairs and corporate secretary, participated in a webinar with Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the third-ranking Democrat and majority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives. SHRM members from South Carolina also attended. 

Clyburn discussed his work as chairman of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, as well as his insights on the policy agenda of the upcoming Congress and Biden administration. 

Workplace Tax Provisions Set to Expire on Dec. 31

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act include several temporary workplace provisions, such as economic support for small businesses, paid leave and employer-provided benefits. 

Absent congressional action, many of the following workplace tax provisions are set to expire on Dec. 31: 

  • Paid Leave Employer Tax Credits. Refundable tax credits for small and midsize businesses and nonprofit organizations for costs related to giving employees paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. The tax credits for qualified leave wages and qualified family leave wages are applicable to wages paid from Apr. 1 through Dec. 31.
  • Unemployment Insurance. The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program providing $600 per week of additional unemployment insurance (UI) benefits expired at the end of July. The remaining UI provisions, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance—the extension of UI benefits for an additional 13 weeks and the one-week waiting period often required before obtaining UI compensation (waived for residents of states that opted in) —is set to expire at the end of the year.
  • Employee Retention Tax Credit. The refundable payroll tax credit of up to 50 percent on wages paid up to $10,000 for qualifying employers, which aimed to keep workers on payrolls during the economic downturn.
  • Delayed Employer-Side Social Security Payroll Tax Payments.Businesses that elected to delay these payments in 2020 will have to repay the tax over the next two years, with half due on Dec. 31, 2021, and the other half due on Dec. 31, 2022. Similarly, deferred employee-side payroll taxes for employers who opted in on behalf of their employees is set to expire. Employees will have to repay the deferred payroll tax between Jan. 1 and Apr. 30, 2021.
  • Employer-Provided Student Loan Repayment. A temporary provision allowing employers to contribute up to $5,250 toward an employee’s student loans as a benefit. The provision applies to any student loan payments made by an employer on behalf of an employee between March 27 through Dec. 31.
  • Retirement Account Distributions. The waiver of the 10 percent early withdrawal penalty on retirement account distributions of up to $100,000 for individuals needing supplementary income from retirement accounts. In addition, required minimum distribution rules will be reinstated for 2021. Taxpayers will be permitted to repay qualified early distributions back into retirement accounts over the next two years.

Congress may consider additional COVID-19-related relief legislation before adjourning for the year or in early 2021, which could address these expiring provisions.

SHRM Hosts Elected Officials for Second Conversation on Workplace Equity

On Dec. 2, Chief of Staff Emily Dickens concluded SHRM’s latest collaborative effort with the National Foundation for Women Legislators. SHRM hosted its second roundtable on workplace equity with Rep. Sandra Scott, D-Ga., Rep. Lisa Krasner, R-Nev., Rep. Amy Nielsen, D-Iowa, and Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Del., who is a SHRM member. 

These women shared their personal experiences and a road map to creating workplace cultures that are inclusive and respectful of all employees. Segments of these important conversations will soon be available on our social media platforms and at

SHRM’s advocacy is grounded in policy, not politics. Facilitating timely and critical dialogue is invaluable to our efforts in working alongside policymakers at all levels of government.

Xavier Becerra Nominated to Lead Department of Health and Human Services

President-elect Joe Biden has named Xavier Becerra as his nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Becerra was appointed as California’s attorney general by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017 to fill the vacancy left when Kamala Harris was elected to serve in the U.S. Senate. Becerra also served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 24 years and was a member of the Ways & Means Committee, which is one of the House committees with jurisdiction over health care.

Becerra led 20 states and the District of Columbia in a lawsuit in support of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to protect access to health care. Becerra has opposed association health plans, short-term plans (which some employees use while between jobs), and the Trump administration’s rules that provide exceptions to the ACA’s contraceptive mandate based on an employer’s religious or moral concerns. Becerra has also voiced support for Medicare for all, but he recently stated that he would not push for it while in office. Rather, he has expressed plans to concentrate his efforts on supporting Biden’s mandate to strengthen and preserve the ACA. 

SHRM’s public-policy priorities include workplace health care. As such, SHRM works with the agencies responsible for health care oversight, including the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor and Department of Treasury, as well as the Internal Revenue Service.

How the Biopharmaceutical Industry Is Working to Boost Confidence in the COVID-19 Vaccine

As encouraging news about safe COVID-19 vaccines circulates, transparency and integrity are more important than ever. In a recent opinion piece in STAT News, Stephen J. Ubl, president and CEO of PhRMA, a trade association representing U.S. biopharmaceutical companies, discussed what the biopharmaceutical industry is doing to ensure the safety and integrity of the COVID-19 vaccine development process. This includes putting safety first and meeting rigorous standards in the clinical trial stage, providing transparent information and data to the public, and advancing diversity when it comes to participating in clinical trials.

SHRM Sponsors WIN Summit 2020: Women Lead the Way

The COVID-19 pandemic and the pressures of this year are having an outsized impact on women in the workplace. Even as we face new changes and challenges, we are closing out a milestone year for women. On Dec. 8, SHRM was a sponsor of the WIN SUMMIT2020: Women Lead the Way conference, a full-day, virtual learning experience that brought together inspirational women for powerful discussions on leadership solutions, actionable strategies and lessons on negotiation. 

As part of the event, Emily Dickens facilitated important panel discussions on leadership in the workplace and how to build fundamentally better workplaces for women.

DOL Issues Implementation Guidance After Federal Courts Block Prevailing Wage Interim Final Rule

The DOL is making technical changes to its prevailing wage system to comply with court orders barring implementation of the agency’s Oct. 8 prevailing wage interim final rule. The system will soon revert to pre-Oct. 8 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program wage data. 

Employers can now submit labor condition applications using pre-Oct. 8 OES prevailing wage data.

Employers have until Jan. 4, 2021, to ask the DOL to review prevailing wage determinations that were issued using the higher wage data under the Oct. 8 rule. Time frames for review and reissuance are unknown. Learn more here.

EEOC Announces New Process for Requesting Formal Opinion Letters

On Dec. 8, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced the launch of its new process for requesting formal opinion letters. Interested parties may request an opinion letter from the commission regarding the application of certain EEOC-enforced laws to a specific question or factual scenario. 

The commission encourages all stakeholders to review the new opinion letter submission process and submit opinion letter requests as soon as possible. Anyone may request a formal opinion letter on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act from the commission. However, before requesting a letter, they should consult existing EEOC regulations and policy guidance, which may address their questions. The process is detailed on the EEOC’s website

Advancing Workplace Issues in 2020

SHRM is proud to be working with several organizations to highlight workplace issues in 2020. They include AARP, Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP, Fakhoury Global Immigration USA PC, Fratelli Group, NAICU, Palladian Hill Strategies, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Tulane University Law School and Viatris.