Attorney Blog, Human Resources

March Madness of Changes in the Landscape of the US.

Attorney Harrison Oldham

Many people look forward to March Madness – the annual NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball tournament, including yours truly.  Although personally, it feels like my bracket is generally busted by the end of day 1, it is still fun to watch the games and try to create the best bracket.  However, this year, we are living in a different version of March Madness – that is the new one being created by the Biden Administration.  Over the last few weeks, President Biden’s Administration and the 117th Congress have made a huge number of changes at the Federal Government level.  Here, I would like to briefly summarize a few of the most important changes.


American Rescue Plan Act

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, also called the COVID-19 Stimulus Package, is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by the 117th United States Congress and signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021. The goal of the Act is to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession.

Here are some of the key elements of the Act:

  • Extending expanded unemployment benefits with a $300 weekly supplement through Labor Day (September 6, 2021), preventing benefits from expiring on March 31, 2021
  • $1,400 direct payments to eligible individuals
  • Emergency paid leave for over 100 million Americans via tax credit to certain employers that choose to offer paid sick leave and family leave to their employees.
  • Extends a 15% increase in food stamp benefits (the increase, passed in previous rounds of stimulus; was set to expire at the end of June 2021; the bill extends it through September 2021.
  • Contains multiple tax provisions, such as:
    • Extends the child tax credit by allowing qualifying families to offset, for the 2021 tax year, $3,000 per child up to age 17 and $3,600 per child under age 6.
    • Expands the child and dependent care credit by making the credit fully refundable and increasing the maximum benefit to $4,000 for one eligible individual and $8,000 for two or more eligible individuals.
    • Three tax increases on large corporations and wealthy individuals, collectively raising $60 billion in revenue.
    • Includes multiple grants to small businesses.
    • Includes $350 billion to help state, local, and tribal governments bridge budget shortfalls.

And on and on. The Act also includes funding for housing, healthcare, agriculture, and education.  Thus, to say that this is a gigantic change is a massive understatement.


Protecting the Right to Organize Act

On March 9, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the ‘Protecting the Right to Organize’ (“PRO”) Act with a vote of 225-206. This bill would overturn 27 states’ right-to-work laws, implement a card check organizing scheme, and nationalize California’s AB 5 test for Independent Contractors.  Union leaders say the PRO Act would finally begin to level a playing field they say is unfairly tilted toward big business and management, making union organizing drives and elections unreasonably difficult.  However, the bill is currently facing an uphill battle in the Senate as long as the legislative filibuster holds. The fate of the Senate filibuster is a major topic of interest for the 117th Congress and the American people. The bill’s proponents are still planning to put a ton of political capital behind the passage so only time will tell if it comes into law.


Wage & Hour rescission laws

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) rescinds Trump-Era wage and hour rules. On March 11, 2021, the DOL announced that it plans to rescind two important regulations of the Trump-era DOL wage and hour division. First, the DOL plans to rescind the independent contractor rule under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which was finalized on January 7, 2021. The effective date of that regulation was pushed to May 7, 2021, but now the DOL plans to rescind the whole regulation. Second, the DOL seeks to rescind a current regulation on joint employer relationships under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which took effect on March 16, 2020. In February 2020, 17 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the DOL, arguing that the Joint Employer Rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act. The court vacated the majority of the Joint Employer Rule on Sept. 8, 2020, stating that the rule was contrary to the FLSA and was “arbitrary and capricious” due to its failure to explain why the department had deviated from all prior guidance or consider the effect of the rule on workers.


Equal Employment Opportunity Commission General Counsel Oust

Last week, President Biden fired the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC”) general counsel Sharon Gustafson from her position. Though her position was not set to expire until 2023, she was let go prematurely. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, states that “There shall be a General Counsel of the Commission appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, for a term of four years”. The administration has not announced any potential candidates for the position.


Public Charge Rule

On March 9, 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) stated that it would no longer pursue appeals of federal court decisions that invalidated or enjoined the 2019 “public charge” rule. A “public charge” is defined as an illegal immigrant who receives public benefits for more than 12 months within a 3-year period.  An alien who is likely to be a public charge is generally not admissible to the United States and ineligible to become a lawful permanent resident. The DHS stated that pursuing appeals of public charges are neither in the public interest nor the best use of government resources. As of right now, DHS is trying to “restore “faith in the legal immigration systems and strengthening integration and inclusion efforts for New Americans.”


National Labor Relations Board

The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) announced that it will be withdrawing a regulatory proposal to exempt from the coverage of the NLRB students who, in connection with their undergraduate and graduate studies, work for colleges or universities. The NLRB says this would allow it to “focus its limited resources on competing Agency priorities, including changing the unfair labor practice and representation cases currently in progress.  This decision came shortly after the Biden Administration’s termination of Peter Robb, the now-former General Counsel of the NLRB.  That was the first time in history that the President had fired the NLRB’s sitting General Counsel.

About Harrison Oldham

Harrison grew up in Mansfield, Texas. He attended Texas A&M University for his bachelor’s degree, where he met his wonderful wife, Kelsey. After graduating magna cum laude from Texas A&M, he attended SMU Dedman School of Law, graduating with honors in 2012. Today, Harrison and his wife live in Dallas, Texas with their son, Teddy.

Since graduating from SMU Law, Harrison has worked exclusively in the field of business law. He has spent time in private practice and in-house, working with clients of every size; from single person startups to Fortune 250 companies. Today his practice focuses on serving the diverse needs of businesses and individuals throughout Texas. You can learn more about Harrison by visiting his website, at: http://lonestarbusinesslaw.com/.

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