Whatever your politics may be, change for the American employer has arrived with the Obama Administration. We find ourselves in unprecedented economic times, to be sure, but the American employer also finds itself in unprecedented territory given the sheer number of legislative changes impacting the employer-employee relationship. If you thought the 1991 amendments to the Civil Rights Act were significant, consider the sweeping impact of new laws like these that have recently gone into effect:
1) Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – extending the statute of limitations on a panoply of employment claims under federal law and effectively gutting the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Read more here from Mark Fahleson’s summary on the DRI blog.
2) ADA Amendments Act – expanding the definition of “disabled” under the ADA and placing even greater emphasis on the interactive reasonable accommodation process. More here from the L&E Group at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis.
3) COBRA amendments contained within The American Recovery And Reinvestment Act – reopening the eligibility window for COBRA benefits for employees impacted by recent RIFs and imposing on employers the obligation to subsidize those benefits. More here from the Department of Labor.
President Obama has made a point of emphasizing his support of even greater expansion of employee protections. Among the more controversial is the so-called Employee Free Choice Act, which he told union officials recently “will pass.” Under the EFCA, say goodbye to the secret ballot and hello to “card check.” Some have speculated that the EFCA will never pass in its current form but some watered-down version instead. Time will tell.
Of course, law firms are employers, too, and never has that been so apparent as with the rash of RIFs slamming the legal market of late. But have you noticed how few of those RIFs seem to be impacting labor and employment attorneys? And if the latest litigation statistics are any sign, we defense types are going to be busy for some time to come.
Stanley E. Graham
Waller Lansden Dortch