Washington Wrap: SHRM's 'Top 8' List for 2011

Between now and New Year’s Eve, just about everyone — from late-night comedy show hosts and newspaper editorial boards, to individual families — will be compiling their Top 10 lists for 2011. SHRM’s Government Affairs Team has taken a slightly different approach and compiled its Top 8 list of HR public policy accomplishments for this past year.

As Thomas Jefferson once said, “America is not governed by the majority, but by the majority of those who participate.” 2011 saw a huge uptick in the level of advocacy engagement by SHRM members in the HR public policy arena, thanks in part to the continued rollout of the SHRM A-Team program (see related article). Some of this year’s key accomplishments include:
No. 1: Reducing health care paperwork – SHRM helped eliminate the 2010 health care reform law’s requirement that employers must complete an IRS Form 1099 for every business transaction totaling $600 or more when Congress passed H.R. 4, the “Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act,” which was sponsored by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA).
No. 2: Promoting veterans’ employment – SHRM President and CEO Hank Jackson testified before the U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee on June 1, recommending a series of changes to federal law to improve the prospects of the employment of veterans by our nation’s employers. Several provisons advocated by SHRM were included in the Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-56), legislation to encourage the hiring of military veterans. SHRM and other organizations have advocated for several of the changes to the various programs that support veteran’s employment that was included in the legislation. Jackson was also invited to the White House for the announcement of the “Joining Forces” initiative for military families. SHRM member Bob Cartwright also participated at the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs “Veterans Employment Summit” on Sept. 13.
  Honorable Mention: Washington State SHRM helped advance a new law through the Washington legislature establishing a voluntary “preference” for employers in the state that hire military veterans and their family members.
No. 3: Modernizing the Fair Labor Standards Act – SHRM Member Nobu Hara testified on July 14 before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections to discuss how the FLSA restricts employers from providing workplace flexibility benefits to non-exempt employees. The hearing helped lead Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) to introduce S. 1747, the “Computer Professionals Update Act;” a bill which exempts certain computer systems analysts, computer programmers, software engineers and other similarly skilled professional employees from FLSA coverage.
No. 4: Improving employment verification – SHRM’s consistent advocacy, including testifying in front of the House Subcommittee on Social Security on April 14, on proposals for an effective employment verification system, led to the inclusion of many SHRM-advanced provisions in the House Judiciary Committee-approved H.R. 2885, the “Legal Workforce Act.”  These provisions include the elimination of the Form I-9 and the establishment of an electronic verification system, creation of a pilot biometric program to verify identity, the pre-emption of state employment verification laws, the ability to conduct the verification process after an offer of employment but prior to the commencement of work and the creation of a “safe harbor” for employers that use the electronic verification system.
No. 5: Protecting lawful employer pay practices – SHRM filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court’s landmark wage discrimination class action case Dukes v. Wal-Mart. Several of the arguments advanced by SHRM in our Duke’s amicus brief  were highlighted during oral arguments in the case. The Supreme Court ruled that the lower court erred in certifying the largest class action –1.5 million--in employment class action history.  The high court’s decision is consistent with SHRM’s amicus brief, which stated that “discretionary personnel decisions made against the backdrop of an company-wide diversity policy are not inherently discriminatory but reflect sound HR practices.”
No. 6: Educating federal agencies on the hiring process – SHRM member Fernan Cepero testified before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the typical recruitment and hiring process during a hearing on alleged employment discrimination against out-of-work individuals.
No. 7: Supporting balanced labor-management relations policy – SHRM provided the HR perspective on several labor-management relations issues before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S Congress in 2011. SHRM:
  • Helped secure an extension of the effective date of the NLRB notice of employee rights posting rule to Jan. 31, 2011.
  • Helped pass legislation through the House of Representatives to reverse the NLRB’s “quick election” rule and Specialty Healthcare decision.
  • Helped pass legislation through the House to restrict the NLRB from impeding a unionized employer's decision to locate jobs in a “right to work” state, such as the NLRB claimed against The Boeing Company in South Carolina.
  • Testified on July 19 before the NLRB on the “quick election” rule and submitted official co comments on the NLRB’s rule that led to the amended final rule’s “improvements.” (See related story.)SHRM’s comments were signed by 18 state councils and 32 chapters and supplemented by nearly 6,900 individual comments from SHRM members.
  • Submitted comments on the DOL’s “persuader” rule that were joined by 19 state councils, 47 chapters and 2,477 individual comments from SHRM members.
No. 8: Providing allowances for nursing mothers – SHRM worked with DOL’s Wage & Hour Division to provide guidance on how best to   implement the “reasonable break time for nursing mothers” provision of the health care bill in today's workplace. SHRM members shared their solutions on how to best find space in the workplace for nursing mothers. Many of the ideas advanced by SHRM were included in the guidance issued by DOL.
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