In the semi-annual regulatory agenda developed by federal agencies, the Department of Labor announced that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) proposed rule concerning overtime exemptions for executive, administrative and professional employees will be finalized in April 2024. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) intends to release the final rule implementing the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act by December 29, 2023. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved two workforce development bills that are designed to align educational opportunities with workforce needs. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advised that its revised injury reporting rule will go into effect on January 1, 2024. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued a proposed rule modernizing the H-1B visa program.
Regulatory Agenda Released – The Department of Labor (DOL) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released their semi-annual regulatory agendas. DOL advised that in April 2024, it plans to issue a final rule concerning the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime exemptions for executive, administrative, and professional employees. There were over 26,000 comments submitted on the proposed rule. DOL estimates that the proposed rule would extend overtime protection to 3.6 million more workers and in the first year would impose $1.2 billion of direct costs on employers. DOL proposed to increase the salary basis threshold to $1,050 per week/$55,068 per year, which represents the 35th percentile of full-time salaried workers in the lowest census region, which is the South. The highly compensated earnings threshold would be increased to $143,988/year, which represents the earnings from the 85th percentile of all full-time salaried workers. Every three years, DOL advised that the salary basis threshold would be automatically increased.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) estimates that the proposed rule implementing the Pregnant Worker Fairness Act will be finalized by December 29, 2023, a requirement contained in the law. The law mandates that employers provide reasonable accommodations unless it would impose an undue burden to a qualified employee or applicant, due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
House Committee Approves Workforce Development Bills – The House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved two bills, HR 6585, The Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act and HR 6655, A Stronger Workforce for America Act that are designed to align educational opportunities with workforce needs. The bills need to be considered next by the full House of Representatives.
HR 6585 would provide opportunities for students and workers seeking skills in high-demand fields to use Pell Grants to support their enrollment in high-quality, short-term education programs with the potential to enhance their careers. Pell Grants are awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to help eligible low-income students pay for college costs. Any higher education institution could participate as long as they meet the requirements. The programs would need to be aligned with the requirements of in-demand industries, provide skills to meet the hiring requirements of employers, and provide students with the relevant skills necessary for employment.
HR 6655 would update the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to increase the amount of skills development provided under the law and strengthen connections between employers and the workforce system. The bill would allocate half of the adult and dislocated worker funding under WIOA toward upskilling workers through individual training accounts, on-the-job learning, and other employer led initiatives. Eligible dislocated workers would be given individual training accounts with a value of $5,000 to enroll in reskilling programs to assist them in reconnecting with the workforce. States would be permitted to set aside additional funds from their state allocations to establish a critical industry skills fund that would provide reimbursement to employers and others for upskilling workers in state selected priority industries.
OSHA Finalizes Injury Reporting Rule – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finalized a rule effective on January 1, 2024, that requires employers with at least 100 employees in designated high-hazard industries to submit electronically injury and illness information to OSHA. The covered employers need to submit their Form 300 – Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses and Form 301 – Injury and Illness Incident Report to OSHA once a year. These submissions are in addition to Form 300A – Summary of Work Related Illnesses and Injuries. "Congress intended for the Occupational Safety and Health Act to include reporting procedures that would provide the agency and the public with an understanding of the safety and health problems workers face, and this rule is a big step in finally realizing that objective," explained Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker.
The list of designated high-hazard industries is included in Appendix B to Subpart E of the regulations. The report needs to include the date, physical location, and severity of the injury or illness; details about the injured worker; and details about how the injury or illness occurred. The requirements apply both to employers covered by the federal OSHA law and those covered by states with their own occupational and safety and health programs. OSHA estimates that about 50,000 establishments will be required to submit their injury and illness data that must be submitted electronically through OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (ITA).
DHS Proposes Rule Modernizing H-1B Visa Program – The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), published a proposed rule designed to modernize the H-1B specialty occupation worker visa program by streamlining eligibility requirements, improving efficiency, and providing greater benefits and flexibilities for employers and workers, while strengthening integrity measures. The H-1B visa program allows employers to employ foreign workers temporarily in specialty occupations that require highly specialized knowledge and at least a bachelor’s degree in the specific specialty or its equivalent.
According to DHS, the registration selection process would be changed to eliminate the advantage given to those individuals who have multiple registrations submitted on their behalf. Other additional provisions included in the proposed rule cited by DHS include: allowing a range of higher education degrees provided there is a direct relationship between the required degree field and the duties of the position; providing exemptions to the H1-B cap for certain nonprofits and governmental research organizations; prohibiting related entities from submitting multiple registrations for the same beneficiary; and codifying USCIS’ authority to conduct site visits with refusal to allow a visit potentially resulting in denial or revocation of the application.
Neil Reichenberg is the former executive director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources. He is an attorney, a frequent writer and speaker on public policy and human resource issues and was an adjunct faculty member at George Mason University. For questions or additional information, contact Reichenberg at email@example.com.