Employment Law Report
Secretary of Labor Announces Her New “Vision” For American Workers
On December 7, 2009, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis laid out her “vision” in the Fall 2009 Regulatory Plan for the Labor Department’s mission of ensuring “there are good jobs for everyone.” [Emphasis in the original]. Secretary Solis described a “series of 12 specific strategic outcomes” which she hopes will result in achieving her vision. According to the Labor Department’s website, they are:
• Increasing incomes and narrowing wage and income inequalities;
• Securing safe and healthy workplaces, wages and overtime, particularly in high-risk industries;
• Assuring skills and knowledge that prepare workers to succeed in a knowledge-based economy, including in high-growth and emerging industry sectors such as “green” jobs;
• Breaking down barriers to fair and diverse work places so that every worker’s contribution is respected;
• Improving health benefits and retirement security for all employees;
• Providing work place flexibility for family and personal care-giving;
• Facilitating return to work for workers experiencing work place injuries or illnesses who are able to work and sufficient income and medical care for those who are unable to work;
• Income support when work is impossible or unavailable;
• Helping workers who are in low-wage jobs or out of the labor market find a path into middle class jobs;
• Ensuring workers have a voice in the work place;
• Assuring that global markets are governed by fair market rules that protect vulnerable people, including women and children, and provide workers a fair share of their productivity and voice in their work lives;
• Helping middle-class families remain in the middle class;
One of the initiatives will be “a revised interpretation of Section 203(c) of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA)” which relates to the “advice” exemption from reporting requirements that apply to employers and other persons in connection with persuading employees during union organizing drives. A proposed revised interpretation would narrow the scope of the advice exemption—a move favorable to unions.
Other initiatives include:
• Fiduciary Requirements for Disclosure in Participant-Directed Individual Account Plans, which would increase transparency between individual account pension plans and their participants and beneficiaries by ensuring that participants and beneficiaries are provided the information they need, including information about fees and expenses, to make informed investment decisions.
• Amendment of Standards Applicable to General Statutory Exemption for Services, which would require service providers to disclose to plan fiduciaries services, fees, compensation and conflicts of interest information.
• Annual Funding Notice for Defined Benefit Plans, which would require defined benefit plan administrators to provide all participants, beneficiaries and other parties with detailed information regarding their plan’s funding status.
• Periodic Pension Benefits Statements, which would require pension plans to provide participants and certain beneficiaries with periodic benefit statements.
• Multiemployer Plan Information Made Available on Request, which would require pension plan administrators to provide copies of financial and actuarial reports to participants and beneficiaries, unions and contributing employers on request.
• The Mine Safety and Health Administration’s proposed regulation on Notification of Legal Identity, which aims to require mine operators to provide increased identification information, would allow the agency to better target the most egregious and persistent violators and deter future violations.
• The Office of Labor-Management Standards’ proposed regulations on Notification of Employee Rights Under Federal Labor Laws, which would implement Executive Order 13496 and require all Government contracting agencies to include a contract clause requiring contractors to inform workers of their rights under Federal labor laws.
• The Wage and Hour Division’s rulemaking, Records to be Kept by Employers Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which would update decades old recordkeeping regulations in order to enhance the transparency and disclosure to workers as to how their wages are computed and to allow for new workplace practices such as telework and flexiplace arrangements.
• The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s modification of its Hazard Communication Standard, which would adopt standardized labeling requirements and order of information for safety data sheets.
• The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements rule, which would propose the collection of additional data to help employers and workers track injuries at individual workplaces, improve the Nation’s occupational injury and illness information data, and assist the agency in its enforcement of the safety and health workplace requirements.
For a more complete account of the Secretary’s initiatives, see: