With the election finally behind us, employers can begin asking what President Obama's reelection means for their companies and employees. Republicans' retention of a majority in the House will likely prevent any major new legislative initiatives aimed at workers' rights. As with the past two years, the Administration's best chance for implementing its labor agenda lies with the regulatory agencies.
The National Labor Relations Board will retain its Democratic majority, and likely will continue to seek to ease unions' organizing burdens through election rules intended to hamper employer efforts to defeat organizing activities. The NLRB will also continue its trend of seeking to expand its jurisdiction over non-unionized workplace policies and practices.
Other federal administrative agencies such as the EEOC and Department of Labor have not been as openly politicized as the NLRB, but can be expected to continue to emphasize employee rights over cooperative efforts with business. Impending budget cuts could hamper the ability of these agencies to implement any new regulatory or enforcement agendas.
The major immediate impact of the election for employers will be the unimpeded implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Between the election and the Supreme Court's upholding of the essential portions of the law, regulatory agencies will issue a torrent of regulations next year in advance of the 2014 effective date of the individual mandate and employer obligations. Employers may look to the federal judiciary to stop or at least delay regulations deemed unfair or burdensome to industry.
Regardless of these developments, gridlock in Washington may be the overarching theme for labor and employment law over the next several years. North Carolina's new Republican governor may remove impediments to a number of changes to state employment laws, including curbing unemployment and Workers' Compensation benefits and eligibility, guns at work laws, and blocking efforts by local governments to expand civil rights protections and benefits.