President Obama Makes Lasting Legislation in Support of Workers Rights

Yarelyn Mena and Owen H. Laird, Esq.

As President Barack Obama’s tenure nears an end, he and his administration have been pushing for far-reaching changes in employment laws that may benefit thousands of workers across the country.

At the beginning of his presidency, many workers—both Democrats and Republicans—did not support the President because he took and supported actions that appeared to be against workers’ interests.  For example, the President moved slowly to fill important employment agency positions, such as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which resulted in the delay of Democratic appointees and caused proceedings at the NLRB to come to a halt.  Labor unions also were unhappy that the President failed to side with union members when legislation threatened to allow employers to hold secret ballot elections concerning leadership voting methods.

Despite this rough beginning, President Obama supported various legislation, the most recent of which is to eliminate the minimum wage overtime exemption for home-care professionals, which may have regained workers’ trust. In 2013, the Department of Labor (DoL) revised its rules governing domestic service employees, ending overtime exemptions for home-care aides and home health care workers.  After employers brought suit challenging the new regulations, and succeeded in invalidating large portions of it, the District of Columbia’s Court of Appeals, led by two Obama appointees, reversed the lower court’s decision and upheld the new rules. Obama earned praise and partial credit for the overdue decision.  Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, commented on the decision, “We were restoring what was a time-honored economic and social compact, which is that as we have productivity and profitability in this country, that is shared between business and workers.”

In addition to protecting home-care professionals’ rights, the federal government extended rights for all workers with a combination of regulatory rules and executive orders.  For instance, the NLRB adjusted its rules to speed up the elections that determine whether to form a union, to the benefit of prospective union members. Further, the DoL proposed another rule change increasing the salary level for the purpose of FLSA exemption.  And, in an executive order, President Obama raised federal contractors’ wages up to $10.10.

As of late, President Obama’s administration has stepped up for workers’ rights, benefiting our labor force for years to come.

If you have any questions or concerns about your employment rights, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.