SHRM External Affairs Year in Review

Over the past year, human resource professionals were tested like never before—and you came through with flying colors, working tirelessly to protect the lives and livelihoods of your employees. 

SHRM has worked hard to match your energy and commitment as we have pursued a range of critical workplace issues with policymakers at all levels. 

As we close out the year, we want to take this opportunity to remind you of a handful of these priorities and the things we achieved together. The headlines below point to significant progress on issues of importance to you and your employees. 

While this newsletter looks back on 2021, it also helps set the stage for the new year. One of our most important projects is planning for SHRM’s Workplace Policy Conference (WPC) March 27-29, 2022, in Washington, D.C. We urge you to visit our WPC website and register today.

We are excited to announce National Labor Relations Board Member Gwynne Wilcox, the first Black woman to serve on the NLRB since its inception in 1935, will join us at WPC to discuss how the NLRB enforces labor law.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Taryn Mackenzie Williams will discuss collective efforts to expand employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities and offer valuable insight about how HR professionals can ensure that they remain in compliance with their legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other employment regulations related to disability.

National Foundation for Women Legislators Executive Director Jody Thomas and National Conference of State Legislatures Chief Executive Officer Tim Storey will lead a session titled “Effecting Change from Within: How Local and State Advocacy Can Lead to Positive Changes Everywhere.” Stay tuned for more WPC updates in the weeks ahead.

Thank you for partnering with us to advocate for policy that makes better workplaces and a better world. Please take a moment to watch the following video message from SHRM Chief of Staff and Head of Government Affairs Emily M. Dickens, who shares her gratitude for all that you do to serve your colleagues, their families and the HR profession.

We wish you a safe and happy holiday season! –SHRM External Affairs Team

SHRM Convenes Experts to Discuss Omicron Variant

SHRM External Affairs hosted its final quarterly webcast of the year on Dec. 2, providing critical and timely information on the omicron variant of COVID-19.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Vice Chair Jocelyn Samuelsdiscussed the commission’s guidance in the context of COVID-19 and beyond.

City of St. Louis Director of Health Dr. Matifadza Hlatshwayo Davis provided the latest scientific information on the omicron variant and recommendations for HR professionals and the business community.

SHRM member Jonathan Segal, an attorney at Duane Morris, LLP in Philadelphia, shared legal and regulatory insight on what HR professionals and business executives should expect looking ahead.

Tracking EEOC Guidance, COVID-19, and Vaccine Guidance

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its COVID-19 technical assistance on Dec. 14, adding a new section to clarify under what circumstances COVID-19 may be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. 

EEOC’s new questions and answers focus broadly on COVID-19 and the definition of disability under Title I of the ADA and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, which both address employment discrimination. The updates also provide examples illustrating how an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 or a post-COVID-19 condition could be considered to have a disability under the laws the EEOC enforces. 

EEOC has updated its guidance on employment and COVID-19 approximately 20 times throughout the pandemic, and SHRM is keeping members up-to-date on the latest developments.

SHRM has also mobilized to provide helpful resources to HR professionals and business leaders following the publication of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine-or-testing mandate for employers with 100 or more workers.

Right now, the mandate is held up in the courts and cannot be enforced, but we are watching closely as it makes its way through the legal process. We are also engaging with employers to hear their concerns and share those concerns with policymakers.

We will stay vigilant to ensure that any final rule will not overly burden employers. For more information on the ETS, including guidelines for its implementation, visit SHRM’s COVID-19 vaccination resource center.

SHRM Advocacy Leads to I-9 Flexibility Extension

Thanks to your input, we were able to make a strong case for the extension of I-9 compliance flexibilities beyond their original expiration date. 

Survey responses from more than 1,300 SHRM members gave us unique insights into the issue, allowing us to successfully persuade the Department of Homeland Security to extend the program’s end date from Dec. 17, 2021, to April 30, 2022. We continue to reinforce all our recommendations for immigration modernization, including E-Verify changes, and we will update you as we learn more about what’s next.

SHRM: Build Back Better Could Be Better

The External Affairs Team is also keeping a close eye on the Build Back Better legislation, which contains provisions that would significantly affect SHRM members, your organizations and the 115 million workers you represent. Before it comes up for consideration in the Senate, we urge you to contact your senators online or text SHRM to 52886.

This legislation, if passed in its current form, would create a federal leave program that is misaligned with the Family and Medical Leave Act and out of touch with the diversity of this country’s workplaces. Additionally, there are provisions that would increase health care costs, upset the balance of labor-management relations and impose exorbitant civil liabilities on employers of all sizes. 

In response to these provisions, we called on Congress to find more balance by acknowledging that meeting the needs of our country’s workplaces requires flexibility and that employers are committed to meeting the economic, medical and personal needs of their employees in a manner that also meets the needs of the business.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Progress

Thanks to your advocacy efforts, we are moving closer to the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. 

Our input to a key Senate committee helped propel this bill to the full Senate, where it awaits a final vote. We are also urging the House to move its version of the bill through the committee process and to the floor.

Also with your help, SHRM persuaded two members of the House, Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Rep. Adrian Smith, R-Neb., to re-introduce the bipartisan Commonsense Reporting Act. This legislation would significantly reduce the reporting burden on HR professionals related to employer-provided health care. This issue was a highlight of SHRM21, where many of you used our Phone2Action tool to make the case to Congress—more than 3,000 of you took part!

External Affairs Engagement at SHRM21

It was incredible to see so many of you in Las Vegas and online during SHRM21. 

The External Affairs Team hosted a listening session with U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chair Charlotte A. Burrows and Commissioner Keith E. Sonderling. They discussed future commission priorities and took numerous questions from the audience.

We also hosted the panel discussion titled “SHE-CESSION: Seizing the Moment to Lead Global Change for Women in the Workplace,” focusing on building a more inclusive workplace that ensures no one is disproportionately impacted during a future pandemic or global crisis.

Another highlight of SHRM21 was the External Affairs networking event, where A-Team members and SHRM students met with SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, and Chief of Staff and Head of Government Affairs Emily M. Dickens.

Progress for Veterans Hiring Legislation

We should also highlight our work in state legislatures and recognize our California state council, which advanced veterans’ hiring preference legislation. The bill would allow California employers to establish voluntary written preferences for hiring or promoting veterans over other qualified applicants. 

The legislation passed the state Senate and Assembly in August. While California Governor Newsom vetoed the bill, he committed to working with proponents, including SHRM, on a version that he will sign into law.

Pushing Back on Paycheck Fairness and PRO Acts

In some cases, we use our voice to push back against legislation that would have negative consequences for employees and organizations. This year was no exception. 

SHRM raised serious concerns about provisions of the Paycheck Fairness Act in the House. As written, the bill would restrict HR professionals’ ability to base pay decisions on legitimate business practices, such as professional experience, training, education, skills and shift differentials.

We also weighed in on the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would drastically alter established U.S. labor laws related to organizing, collective bargaining, unions and workers. This bill would undermine employee privacy and attorney-client privilege while reducing union election time frames for employers. In less than 24 hours, SHRM members sent nearly 1,000 letters to lawmakers.

SHRM In-District Engagement Month

SHRM encouraged affiliates and volunteer leaders to engage with federal policymakers and district staff during the August recess to highlight SHRM policy priorities and develop relationships with members of Congress. 

SHRM members across the country met with over 20 different policymakers, with many affiliates committing to connect with lawmakers and district staff later in the year. Dozens of Hill meetings were scheduled by SHRM members as part of the Volunteer Leader Business Meeting in early November.

SHRM Testifies Before EEOC and Congress

SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, testified before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on April 28 on the civil rights implications of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“More than 1 in 5 employees in the United States personally know a woman who has voluntarily left the workforce during the pandemic due to caregiving responsibilities,” he told the commission.

SHRM leaders also testified before the House Financial Services and Education & Labor committees and the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, elevating the voice of HR and establishing SHRM as a public thought leader on issues relevant to work, workers and the workplace.

INCLUSION 2021 Focuses on Disability Employment

John and Mark Cronin, co-founders of John’s Crazy Socks, participated in a panel discussion on how the world of work can talk about diversity, equity and inclusion issues and highlighted ways HR professionals can build more inclusive workplaces during the INCLUSION 2021 conference in Austin, Texas.

They were joined by fellow members of the CEO Commission for Disability Employment, Mimi Dixon of Crayola and Casey Adams Jones of Johnson & Johnson.

Prior to the conference, SHRM Chief of Staff and Head of Government Affairs Emily M. Dickens met with Taryn Williams, assistant secretary for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) at the Department of Labor, to discuss the ongoing 15-year alliance between SHRM and ODEP, ODEP’s 20th anniversary and how SHRM can continue serving as a resource to ODEP.

In recognition of those milestones, SHRM urged HR professionals to reaffirm their commitment to increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities by signing the SHRM Disability Inclusion Pledge

INCLUSION 2021 also featured a conversation between Dickens and broadcast journalist and author Gretchen Carlson. They explored the creation and maintenance of healthy and harassment-free workplaces, survivor empowerment and finding common ground amid differences. 

External Affairs Staff Hosts Quarterly Webcasts

SHRM External Affairs hosted four quarterly webcasts in 2021 (plus a special edition on the vaccine-or-testing mandate), providing premier speakers and content delivered in new and engaging formats.

The final webcast of 2021 focused on the omicron variant, with remarks by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Vice Chair Jocelyn Samuels, City of St. Louis Director of Health Dr. Matifadza Hlatshwayo Davis, and SHRM member and attorney Jonathan Segal.

The series features timely updates from External Affairs staff, including SHRM Director of Public Policy James Redstone, Lead Advisor for Public Policy and Government Affairs Chenai Kirkpatrick, Lead Advisor and Federal Lobbyist Caroline Hurley, and Senior Specialist for Member Advocacy Sean McIntosh.

Stay tuned for 2022 webcast dates and times!

SHRM Joins Global Policy Intiatives

SHRM was named a member of the B20 Special Initiative on Women’s Empowerment, which will collect input from all B20 Task Forces and Action Councils to foster the empowerment of women and encourage gender diversity in all economic and social sectors. 

The initiative will elevate targeted recommendations and advocate them to G20 leaders and other public and private organizations, institutions, and groups of interest.

In July, SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, was elected to the board of trustees of the United States Council for International Business (USCIB) and Chief of Staff and Head of Government Affairs Emily M. Dickens was elected to the USCIB board of directors.

Dickens was also appointed to the Steering Committee of Business Partners of CONVINCE (BP2C), a global initiative launched by USCIB to empower a vaccine-literate public based on trust in science and a commitment to the future COVID-19 vaccines and countermeasures.

SHRM Member Advocacy Spotlight

SHRM wants to showcase your advocacy experiences and how you are championing change to advance smart workplace policies. As an advocate for the HR profession, you have a unique and valuable perspective on the changing world of work and how advocacy can make an impact with policymakers and in your workplace. Complete this short survey

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Policy, Not Politics Apparel and Accessories Available at SHRMStore

SHRM has an unwavering commitment to focus on policy, not politics. We believe in our ability to find consensus when we bring all sides to the table for critical discussions of issues impacting work, workers and workplaces.

Together, we are championing policies that will help organizations and people thrive to create better workplaces and a better world.

Showcase your commitment to Policy, Not Politics, with a brand-new line of apparel and merchandise available for order at the SHRMStore. Get FREE SHIPPING on apparel and accessories when you shop at the SHRMStore through May 31.

Advancing Workplace Issues in 2021

SHRM is proud to be working with several organizations to highlight workplace issues in 2021. They include Fratelli Group, NAICU, Palladian Hill Strategies, Seyfarth Shaw LLP and Viatris.

As the Voice of All Things Work, SHRM pursues nonpartisan public policy to promote flexible, inclusive and equitable workplaces that help business thrive as talent is tapped, trained and empowered to reach its full potential. Policy not politics.

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