Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’

LGBT Executive Order Signed by Obama

Executive action that President Obama promised to take on gay and lesbian and transgender discrimination has finally arrived.  On Monday the president signed an executive order forbidding federal contractors and the federal government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The new executive order amends Executive Order 11246, the cornerstone of the federal contracting program, which already forbids discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Now it will include discrimination based on sexual orientation.

That change will affect some 30,000 companies employing 28 million Americans. Separately, Obama amended Executive Order 1478, signed by President Richard M. Nixon, which extends similar protections to federal employees.

Over the objections of religious leaders, the executive order does not include a broad exemption for contractors with religious affiliations. However, it does maintain a 2002 executive order signed by President George W. Bush, which allows employers to favor workers of their own faith for religious roles, such as members of the clergy.

Here’s the White House fact sheet on the new order.

Gender Identity Bias Order Coming, Obama Says

On this July 4, the birthday of the United States, an announcement this week from the White House shows that our notions of equality keep expanding. At an event on Monday night, President Obama announced he will sign an executive order protecting federal employees from being discriminated against on the basis of sexual identity.

It’s another example of the president acting without Congress, which has refused to pass federal legislation that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the private and public sector.

Obama’s powers are limited to the workforce over which he exercises authority–employees of the federal government.

A Happy 4th of July to all of my readers!

Obama Takes Aim at Contractor Pay Practices

Federal contractors could be forgiven for thinking they’re being picked on by the U.S. government.  President Obama today signed two documents putting those contractors’ pay practices under further scrutiny.

One–an executive order–prohibits contractors from retaliating against their employees because they discuss their pay with each other.

The other, a presidential memorandum, requires the Department of Labor to adopt rules requiring contractors to submit pay data to the department, broken down by race and gender.

Both moves are designed to highlight the Obama administration’s push for equal pay for women, who continue to earn about 77 cents on the dollar for every dollar a man makes.

And since Obama doesn’t have the constitutional authority to command the private sector to close the pay gap, he instead pressures contractors to get with the program.

It’s the latest in a string of executive orders to call attention to labor issues. Previously, Obama hit contractors up by raising their minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and he’s also ordered DOL Secretary Thomas Perez to re-examine the regulations governing overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act, to limit the number of employees who are denied overtime for working more than a 40 hour workweek.

Obama Order Targets FLSA Exemption

Employers won’t be able to make as wide use of the “white collar” exemption to deny overtime pay to their employees, a process that President Obama intends to jump-start tomorrow with the issuance of an executive memorandum.

According to published reports, Obama will instruct the U.S. Department of Labor to issue stricter rules on overtime. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires most employees be paid time and a half for working more than 40 hours a week.

However, the FLSA has an exemption for workers employed as bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales employees. There are a lot of hoops an employer has to jump through to show that the affected employees really are in one of these categories–but they all have in common either the performance of management duties or tasks involving specialized knowledge.

The White House is concerned that employers are abusing the exemption by folding in workers, such as convenience store managers, fast food shift supervisors and office workers, who may be expected to work 50 or 60 hours a week without overtime, and that their hourly pay rate may actually be less than the $7.25 an hour minimum wage.

The action is the latest example of Obama’s stated intention to use his executive authority to enact policies that Congress won’t consider.

But expect pushback from congressional Republicans.

The fact is, though, this exemption has been on the FLSA books for decades and is in need of revisiting–so maybe Obama’s unilateral move will finally spur Congress to take a serious look at the exemption.

Obama To Raise Gov’t Contractor Minimum Wage

Future government contracts will have to pay a $10.10 minimum wage, President Obama announced tonight in his annual State of the Union address.

Earlier in the day administration officials said the president will sign an executive order requiring the payment of a minimum wage by contractors performing services for the federal government.

Obama made his announcement as part of a general call on Congress to raise the minimum wage for all workers.

He said that workers who prepare meals for our troops and do other services for the government shouldn’t have to live in poverty. Hard to disagree with that.

By administration estimates, the guaranteed minimum wage for government contract employees will affect 2 million workers.

Interestingly, work on federal projects already must abide by several wage laws, so this latest executive order might be duplicative of current law in some respects.

Other wage and hour laws that apply on federal contract work are:

  • the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, which require payment of prevailing wage rates and fringe   benefits on federally-financed or assisted construction;
  • the Service Contract Act, which requires payment of prevailing wage rates and fringe benefits on   contracts to provide services to the federal government;
  • the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act, which sets overtime standards for most   federal service contracts, federally funded construction contracts, and federal   supply contracts over $100,000; and
  • the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act, which requires payment of minimum wage rates and overtime   pay on federal contracts to manufacture or provide goods to the federal  government.

Gay Rights Groups Express Hope for State of the Union Address

A line in the president’s annual state of the union address can make all the difference between whether an issue moves to the front and center of the political debate or languishes on the back burner.

Thus, advocates for gay and lesbian equality in the workplace are hoping that President Obama will announce in tomorrow night’s State of the Union address that he is prepared to move on one or more fronts in the continuing drive to ban sexual orientation in all aspects of employment.

Executive Order 11246–the main president order banning discrimination in government contracts, does not ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Obama could make that happen with the stroke of his pen.

On the legislative front, Obama could also give his rhetorical support to the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would ban sexual orientation discrimination in all private employment. The bill died in the last Congress.

Check back here for continuing developments in these and other HR areas.



NLRB Appointments Challenged in Court Brief

President Obama’s recess appointments of two National Labor Relations Board members continues to stoke controversy.

Forty two Republican senators have filed a friend-of-the-court brief assailing these appointments to the National Labor Relations Board as unconstitutional because they were not made when the Senate was in recess.

The brief was signed by 42 of 47 Republican senators.

The vehicle for the brief is the case of Noel Cannon v. National Labor Relations Board, which originated in Washington state. The bottling and canning company is challenging an NLRB ruling that it violated labor laws.

The National Chamber Litigation Center, which advocates on legal and regulatory issues on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has a motion pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to intervene in the case.

I wrote about the recess appointments last December.

Obama Signs Law Extending Tax Credit for Hiring Unemployed Veterans

It’s a small step, but in this economy anything that creates jobs is welcome. So President Obama’s signature on a bill to nudge employers to hire unemployed veterans is a good thing.

The veterans unemployment rate in this country is hovering at 14 percent–well above the national average of 9 percent.

The measure extends tax credits to businesses that hire unemployed veterans and repeals a tax provision seen as a potential burden to government contractors.

Other provisions of the bill will extend up to a year of education and training to veterans of earlier eras; improve transition assistance planning to separating troops; enable troops nearing the end of their active duty time to begin applying for federal jobs; require the Labor Department to find ways to better translate military skills and jobs into civilian employment; and make it easier for veterans to acquire certificates or licenses needed in the civilian world.

Obama Offers Tax Credits to Spur Hiring of Unemployed Veterans

Here’s something for HR to consider as the nation looks for ways to jump-start the economy: Alot of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are out of work. Hiring veterans is good not only for them but for the economy in general. Veterans who have jobs will have money to spend and that will circulate throughout the broader economy.

The problem is a significant one: By government estimates, more than 1 million veterans are unemployed, and jobless rate for veterans who joined after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks stands at 13.3 percent.

President Obama announced a program on Friday to help spur the hiring of veterans. Under the administration’s proposal, employers that hire unemployed veterans would receive additional tax credits.

Under the program, companies would get a $2,400 credit for hiring an unemployed veteran, and $4,800 for hiring a veteran who has been unemployed at least six months. An existing tax credit for employers that hire veterans with a service-connected disability would be increased to $9,600.

By the end of this year, a task force led by the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs is to make recommendations for creating “reverse boot camps” to train veterans for civilian jobs.

Employers aren’t standing pat. Microsoft on Friday announced a partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor to help more than 10,000 veterans get IT certified over the next two ears. Siemens, which already met a goal to hire 300 veterans this year, promised to hire 150 more.