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Federal Regulatory Developments

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While Congress continues to debate proposals to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year 2011, federal agencies continue to churn out new rules affecting the workplace. During the last week of February, SHRM submitted comments on two critical HR public policy proposals. 

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) proposed a rule that would require virtually every private-sector employer to post a notice informing employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

In its comments to the NLRB, SHRM focused on the agency’s lack of statutory authority to issue such a requirement. Unlike many other employment statutes, the NLRA’s language does not require, nor provide for, a posting.

In addition, the rule would create new, and serious, penalties for employers who fail to post the notice. SHRM suggested that the NLRB withdraw its proposal. Alternatively, it said the required notice should be re-drafted to accurately reflect the rights as they are listed in the NLRA.

The agency received more than 6,400 comments, many of which were from SHRM members. In addition, 15 SHRM state councils and 13 chapters signed onto SHRM’s comments.

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division requested information from stakeholders and the public on a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a location (other than a bathroom) for employees to express breast milk for up to one year after the birth of a child.

While the DOL has posted guidance for employers on its website to implement the “nursing mothers” provision, it has requested comments on this requirement as many questions remain on its implementation.  For example, guidance is needed on what is a “reasonable” amount of time. Plus, the agency needs to address various locations that could be used for this purpose and the unique challenges of some employers, such as retail stores in a mall.

The department reached out to SHRM and other stakeholders for a meeting on this issue several months ago. Afterward, SHRM polled its members on the issue and received more than 1,000 responses. SHRM’s comments cover more than 20 practical workplace issues (privacy, signage, notice provisions, etc.) and provide specific suggestions to help the DOL create guidance that will work for all HR professionals.

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