Quick Hits - May 5, 2021 - American Society of Employers - ASE Staff

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Quick Hits - May 5, 2021

Medicare at 50? A group of Democratic senators re-introduced legislation, dubbed the "Medicare at 50 Act," that would expand Medicare access to Americans who are between 50 and 64 years old. 2019 survey by the University of Michigan found that 27% of adults approaching retirement had little or no confidence in being able to afford health insurance over the next year, and 45% had little or no confidence to afford the cost of their health insurance once they retired.  If this bill passes into law, it may have a positive impact on employers when planning health benefits for the workforce given the public option would be available for those 50 and older.  Source:  Yahoo News 4/21/21

Talent war will be heating up:  Michigan's unemployment rate edged down a tenth of a percentage in March to 5.1%, its third straight month of decline, according to data released by the Department of Technology, Management & Budget (DTMB). The rate is .9 percentage points below the U.S. jobless rate for March of 6.0%.   Total employment in the state rose by 12,000, while unemployment edged down by 4,000, resulting in a minor workforce gain of 8,000 over the month. It's the third straight month that payroll jobs rose.  Finding qualified talent will be more difficult as the unemployment rate drops.

Need talent, try returned citizens: J. P. Morgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank by assets — which last year hired about 2,100 people with criminal backgrounds — said that it will expand its Second Chance recruitment effort to Columbus, Ohio.  Launched in Chicago, the program connects JPMorgan recruiters with local nonprofit organizations that train and mentor convicted adults.  JPMorgan also pledged another $12.5 million to help community organizations in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Nashville, Tenn., connect people with convictions to jobs and entrepreneurial training. The commitment builds on the company’s previous pledge of $7 million. “Getting a second chance will give people dignity and enable them to earn a higher lifetime income while reducing recidivism and all of its related costs," said JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.   Source:  American Banker 4/27/21

Should everyone be nonexempt? Four congressional democrats urged the secretary of labor in a March 25 letter to raise the salary threshold for overtime eligibility and adopt automatic updates.  The U.S. Department of Labor's regulations implementing the Fair Labor Standards Act require that workers earning less than $684 a week ($35,568 per year) be paid time-and-one-half for all hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek.  Noting that the salary threshold historically has ranged from the 35th to 55th percentile of weekly earnings for full-time, salaried workers nationwide, the lawmakers suggested a salary threshold in line with the "historical high point of salary thresholds — the 55th percentile of earning of full-time salaried workers nationwide." This would amount to at least $82,732 by 2026, according to the letter.  Source:  HR Dive 4/7/21

President Biden issues executive order directing $15 minimum wage for federal contractors:  The new executive order will expand upon the Federal Minimum Wage Executive Order 13658 signed by President Obama in February 2014, which applied to certain types of Service Contract Act contracts and limited other federal contractors.  The Executive Order on Increasing the Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors states that the minimum wage for certain hourly workers be increased to $15 per hour beginning January 30, 2022.  The Executive Order also dictates that wages for tipped workers be increased to $10.50 per hour, beginning January 30, 2022. The White House has released a Fact Sheet which previews that “the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and the Federal Acquisition and Regulatory Council will engage in rulemaking to implement and enforce this Executive Order” by November 24, 2021.  Source: Jackson Lewis 4/27/21, 4/28/21

Are you planning harassment or respectful workplace training for employees? McDonald’s said Wednesday that it will mandate worker training to combat harassment, discrimination, and violence in its restaurants worldwide starting next year.  The training will be required for 2 million workers at 39,000 stores worldwide. The change is part of a larger reckoning over sexual harassment at the world’s largest burger chain. At least 50 workers have filed charges against the company over the last five years, alleging physical and verbal harassment and, in some cases, retaliation when they complained. The problem wasn’t confined to restaurants. In November 2019, McDonald’s fired its former CEO Steve Easterbrook after he acknowledged having a relationship with an employee.  It will also help protect the millions of vulnerable workers at their stores (think teenagers) with this training rollout.  If you’d like to implement company-wide harassment prevention training, please contact Tony Kaylin. Source: AP 4/14/21

Paid Medical Leave just around the corner? President Biden’s American Families Plan would create a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program to ensure that workers receive partial wage replacement to:  

  • Bond with a new child
  • Care for a seriously ill loved one
  • Deal with a loved one’s military deployment
  • Find safety from sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence
  • Heal from their own serious illness
  • Deal with the death of a loved one

The program would guarantee 12 weeks of paid parental, family, and personal illness/safe leave by year 10 of the program. Workers would get three days of bereavement leave per year starting in year one. The program would provide workers up to $4,000 a month, with a minimum of two-thirds of average weekly wages replaced, rising to 80% for the lowest wage workers. The program would cost an estimated $225 billion over a decade. It is unclear whether this new updated FMLA leave would preempt state and local jurisdictional requirements or be in addition to. It is also unclear how the paid leave would interact with company paid leave policies or provide any refundable tax credit for employers like paid leave currently allows for under the FFCRA.  Although this proposal has bipartisan support, it is unclear whether it could pass the Senate. Source:  CCH

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