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Everything Employment Related in the State of the Union Address

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In case you missed President Biden's State of the Union Address last night, here is a summary of everything employment related that was mentioned.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Pay equity and higher minimum wage

When President Biden took office in January 2021, part of his initial plan was to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15.00 per hour. While many states have increased minimum wage levels, the federal minimum wage has remained $7.25 (since 2009). So, President Biden called on Congress again to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.

Additionally, President Biden called for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. When Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) in 1963, it included equal-pay provisions. These equal-pay provisions make it unlawful for an employer to pay men and women doing the same or similar work differently — unless the employer can demonstrate that it based the pay differential on "any other factor other than sex." The Paycheck Fairness Act would strike "any other factor other than sex" and insert "a bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training, or experience."

The House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act last April (H.R. 2490). However, it could not survive a Senate filibuster in June.

Union Strong

Shortly after President Biden took office, Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash. and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. sponsored the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (the PRO Act) in the Senate, with Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va. doing the same in the House. The law would make it easier for employees to form a union (more).

Since last year, the White House formed a task force on worker organizing, and President Biden is now calling on Congress again to pass the PRO Act.

Codifying LGBT Rights

Of all the references to employment law matters last night, perhaps the best chance of any to come to fruition is the passage of the Equality Act (H.R. 5), a comprehensive LGBT rights bill. The Equality Act would amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), the federal anti-discrimination law for the workplace, to clarify that discrimination based on sex (currently unlawful) would include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The legislation would also ban discrimination based on these protected classes in public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, housing, credit, and the jury system.

In 2019, the House of Representatives made history when it passed the Equality Act. It happened again in 2021. However, both times, it died in the Senate. Will the third time in three years be the charm?

Posted In: Congressional Activity; Executive Branch; Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)

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