HR POLICY BRIEFING – 12/7/2021

Contact Your Senators About the Build Back Better Act

As the Build Back Better Act awaits consideration in the Senate, SHRM is calling on members to contact their senators before revisions are made. 

Some proposals in the Build Back Better Act are likely to exacerbate the impact of the pandemic during a time when many businesses are recovering financially and facing historic talent shortages. 

Congress can find more balance by acknowledging that meeting the needs of our country’s workplaces requires flexibility. Balanced legislation also requires an acknowledgement that employers are committed to meeting the needs of their employees in a manner that also meets the needs of the business. 

To take action with SHRM on the Build Back Better Act, contact your senators online or text SHRM to 52886. 

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.

SHRM Advocates Appear in National News Media

Georgia SHRM State Legislative Director Ed Enoch, an attorney at Enoch Tarver, PC in Augusta, Ga., discussed the challenges employers face when handling requests for religious exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates in a Nov. 30 story in Time magazine.

“You can’t just say in a blanket manner that the Pope says it’s okay to get vaccines so we’re not giving religious exemptions to Catholics,” Enoch told Time. “It doesn’t have to be part of the doctrine of the faith that you attend, so it’s a really squishy standard; it’s really hard to put a finger on that.”

The story, “ ‘This Wasn‘t in the Job Description’: HR Departments Are Navigating Confusing COVID-19 Religious Exemption Requests,” includes SHRM research and quotes Chief of Staff and Head of Government Affairs Emily M. Dickens.

The Wall Street Journal also spoke with Dickens for a story published on Nov. 26 titled “Vaccine Mandate Legal Challenges Muddy the Waters for Employers Preparing to Implement Rules.” 

In other advocacy news, Enoch (above right) met on Nov. 30 with Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga., to discuss the SHRM-backed Common Sense Reporting Act. Rep. Allen, ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, included this photo from the meeting in his newsletter.

Register Today for WPC22 in Washington

It’s time to make plans for the premier workplace policy event.

SHRM’s Workplace Policy Conference 2022 (WPC 2022) will be held in Washington, D.C., March 27-29, and the early-bird registration rate is available through Dec. 17.

The last two years have brought unprecedented changes to the workplace, and policymakers continue to make major decisions that affect your workplace. As an experienced advocate for the HR profession, you and your voice are critical to shaping the future of the workplace.

Join us in Washington to hear directly from public officials and experts on changes to workplace policies, meet with lawmakers and expand your network. Register today!

Courts Block Vaccine Mandate

On Dec. 7, a federal judge in Georgia blocked nationwide the Biden administration mandate requiring employees of federal contractors to be vaccinated. The ruling comes after other federal courts blocked vaccine mandates for health care workers and federal contractors last week.

On Nov. 30, a federal district court in Louisiana ruled that the directive for health care workers is temporarily blocked nationwide, following a decision on Nov. 29 from a federal district court in Missouri that blocked the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine directive for health care workers in 10 states.

Also on Nov. 30, a federal district court in Kentucky ruled the administration cannot enforce a mandate requiring that new government contracts include vaccination clauses for workers. While the decision prevents the government from enforcing its contractor vaccine mandate in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, it does not prevent employers from continuing to implement vaccination policies. An employer can rollout or continue its vaccination policy for uniformity’s sake and administrative convenience, among other reasons. 

The broader vaccine-or-testing mandate for employers with 100 or more workers remains on hold following a court order. Litigation will determine if the emergency temporary standard (ETS) is upheld, modified or struck down. If all or part of the mandate is upheld, the implementation and compliance requirements will be determined by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court. 

For more information on the ETS, including guidelines for its implementation, visit SHRM’s COVID-19 vaccination resource center.

EEOC Examines Pay Inequities in Health Care

The Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), which is led by the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), will host its annual technical meeting on Dec. 13 at 8:30 a.m. ET. The meeting will focus on the private sector’s role in reducing gender pay inequalities in the health care sector during the COVID-19 recovery.

Speakers will explore key characteristics of wage composition, the gender wage gap and how to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on pay equity. Registration is open.

SHRM Chief of Staff and Head of Government Affairs Emily M. Dickens will discuss SHRM’s latest pay equity research.

Speakers include policymakers and employers from Canada, Switzerland and Iceland. The EPIC Secretariat includes the International Labour Organization, U.N. Women, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

SHRM Joins International Forum on Inclusion

The IOE hosted a webinar on Nov. 23 titled “Women Leaders at the Forefront of Economic Prosperity–From Unconscious Bias to Conscious Inclusion,” featuring remarks by Dickens. She gave a preview of upcoming SHRM research on the corporate leadership pipeline. 

Dickens said corporate strategies and policies should focus on professional development opportunities, transparent communication about internal opportunities and ways to build a culture of inclusion among workers at every level of an organization.

DOL Issues Minimum Wage Rule for Federal Contractors

On Nov. 22, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Wage and Hour Division announced a final rule that increases the hourly minimum wage for certain federal contractors to $15, effective Jan. 30, 2022. 

The minimum wage increase results from Executive Order 14026, which was signed by President Biden on April 27.

The order has provisions for incremental increases. It also eliminates the tipped minimum wage for federal contractors by 2024 and ensures a $15 minimum wage for workers with disabilities performing work on covered contracts.

Enforcement of Health Care Cost Reporting Delayed

The DOL issued an interim final rule including upcoming requirements for self-funded health plan sponsors and insurers of fully funded plans to provide annual reports of the cost of prescription drugs and certain medical expenses. 

Released on Nov. 17, the rule is the latest in a series of regulations implementing price transparency provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which was signed into law at the end of 2020.

The act requires plans and issuers to begin reporting required information to federal agencies by Dec. 27, but the interim final rule delays enforcement of the reporting requirements by a year. 

Plans and issuers must now provide federal agencies with an annual overview of their top 50 drugs across key areas of concern, including:

  • The brand-name prescription drugs dispensed most frequently.
  • The prescription drugs generating the highest total annual spending.
  • The drugs that resulted in the greatest increase in total annual spending over the previous year.

Federal agencies are accepting comments on the interim rule through Jan. 24, 2022. For information on submitting comment to DOL, e-mail governmentaffairs@shrm.org.

Employing Abilities @Work Program Receives Grant

Kessler Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to the SHRM Foundation to develop its Employing Abilities @Work certificate program. 

The grant was the largest single award made by the Kessler Foundation’s Center for Grantmaking in 2021. Since 2005, the Kessler Foundation has awarded more than $50 million to nonprofit programs that expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. 

SHRM Foundation will partner with Global Disability Inclusion, which creates disability inclusion solutions and trainings for some of the world’s leading brands, to develop 10 hours of education delivered in an e-learning format for the certificate program.

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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.

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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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