Whether you are an employer or employee, you might be interested to know that new federal employment and discrimination laws are to become effective in 2009. Perhaps you’d also like to know about pending employment, labor and discrimination laws that Congress is expected to reconsider after President-Elect Barack Obama takes office.
Technically, labor laws deal with employer-union relationships while employment laws deal with employer-employee relationships, but the terms are often used interchangeably. Discrimination laws are also referred to as antidiscrimination laws or civil rights laws.
New Federal Employment Laws and Discrimination Laws Effective in 2009
Listed below are new federal employment laws, discrimination laws or related laws that are scheduled to become effective in 2009, most in January.
Update: President Obama signed the Stimulus Act, officially referred to as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, into law on February 17, 2009. It is not an employment or labor law per se; but, the Act does provide much needed help to eligible unemployed workers. For more information, see Unemployment Benefits Under the Stimulus Act and COBRA Subsidy Under the Stimulus Act.
Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA)
Amends the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), to better protect disabled American workers from employment discrimination. The ADAAA becomes effective on January 1, 2009. See New Disability Discrimination Law for more information.
Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007
This relatively new wage and hour law increased the federal minimum wage by 70 cents per year for three consecutive years. The third and final minimum wage increase under this Act becomes effective July 24, 2009, for a total of $7.25 per hour. See Federal Minimum Wage Increase for more information. See also Minimum Wage Increase in 2009 – State & Federal.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Final Rule
A new final rule updates the FMLA regulations, to grant eligible workers the right to take up to 12 or 26 weeks of unpaid military family leave. The new FMLA final rule also clarifies certain family and medical leave rules for workers and employers, and changes FMLA rules based on decisions made by U.S. courts.
The final rule becomes effective on January 16, 2009. See New Rules for Family and Medical Leave for more information.
Final Rule for Federal Contractors and E-Verify
President Bush signed an Executive Order in 2008 requiring federal contractors to use the E-Verify System, to verify the employment eligibility of their workers as defined in the Executive Order. The President’s Executive Order spawned a final rule to which federal contractors must adhere as of the effective date. See Federal Contractors must use E-Verify for more information.
Update: The final rule was to become effective on January 15th, 2009; but, the federal government has postponed the effective date four times. The new effective date is September 8, 2009.
Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008
GINA prohibits employers and health insurers from discriminating on the basis of genetic information. President Bush signed this new genetic discrimination law on May 21, 2008, to start taking effect in 2009. Title I, which applies to health insurers, takes effect in phases from May 22, 2009 to May 21, 2010. Title II, which applies to employers, becomes effective on November 21, 2009. See Genetic Discrimination Law to Take Effect for more information.
Federal Employment Laws, Labor Laws and Discrimination Laws Likely to be Reconsidered in 2009
Listed below are pending federal employment laws, labor laws and discrimination laws that those in the know expect Congress to reconsider in 2009. Some were sponsored or cosponsored by President-Elect Barack Obama when he was a senator.
Civil Rights Act of 2008
The related bill introduced by Representative John Lewis in early 2008 amends several federal civil rights statutes (discrimination laws) to strengthen the legal rights and remedies originally intended by Congress when passing the laws, but later weakened by U.S. court rulings. The House version of the bill was cosponsored by 33 representatives, while the Senate version was cosponsored by 19 senators.
For more information see Bill H.R.5129 at the THOMAS Legislative Database, which provides a link to the Senate version (S.2554) introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy.
Employee Free Choice Act
Representative George Miller introduced this Act in early 2007, to amend the National Labor Relations Act to better enable employees to form, join or assist labor unions and to better curtail unfair labor practices.
Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007
In November 2007, the House of Representatives passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007, which prohibited sex discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation. But the historic Act died in the Senate.
Still, it’s a hot legislative topic; subsequently, Congress will likely reconsider the Act or introduce a replacement act in 2009, such as one that will amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of either sexual orientation or gender identity. Several states have already enacted similar laws.
Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
Amends the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) to make it apply to employers who employ 25 or more employees. Currently, the FMLA applies only to employers who employ 50 or more employees. Also amends the FMLA to grant leave rights to employees who must address the effects of domestic violence. For more information, refer to Bill H.R.1369 at the THOMAS Legislative Database.
Update: See also the Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act of 2009, a bill (H.R.824) introduced in February 2009 that also amends the FMLA to the advantage of employees.
Family Leave Insurance Act
The House of Representatives first considered this Act in April 2008. If Congress passes the Act (or an equivalent replacement act) in 2009, the new federal employment law will require certain employers in all states to provide paid family and medical leave benefits to eligible employees.
Update: On March 25, 2009, the House of Representatives reintroduced the FLIA as the Family Leave Insurance Act of 2009 (H.R. 1723). See Family Leave Insurance Act for general information.
Healthy Families Act of 2007
If the Healthy Families Act (or an equivalent replacement act) becomes federal law in 2009, it will require employers in all states who employ 15 or more employees to grant minimal paid sick leave to employees, so employees may care for themselves or family members.
Update: Representative Rosa DeLauro reintroduced the Healthy Families Act in the House on 5/18/2009, just before Senator Edward Kennedy, the Act’s original sponsor, reintroduced it in the Senate on 5/21/2009. See Paid Sick Leave Update for more information and relevant Web links.
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007
When Senator Edward Kennedy introduced this Act, he referred to it as the Fair Pay Restoration Act. Kennedy sponsored the related bill (S.1843) to reverse a U.S. Supreme Court precedent (Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.) that made it more difficult for employees to file wage discrimination lawsuits and by extension, other types of discrimination lawsuits as well, because of an overly-restrictive statue of limitations.
The bill amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 to make it more clear that wage discrimination is unlawful on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex or age.
Update: On January 29, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 into law.
Paycheck Fairness Act
Update: The House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act as Bill H.R.12 on January 9, 2009.
Consult an attorney for legal advice about these federal laws.