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August has been an eventful month for government agencies overseeing workplaces. With new and returning rules pushed forward by both the National Labor Relations Board and the U.S. Department of Labor, employers and HR leaders need to take notice. 

Companies should begin preparing now so they have less to do when the rules are finalized and implemented.

Here are a few of the key points for HR leaders to consider. 

News From the National Labor Relations Board

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced returning to a rule that would reduce the time between a union expressing interest in representing employees and the actual union election. Around the same time, the NLRB also changed the process for unions to organize, making it easier for unions to organize and could even remove the need for an employee vote.

The Final Rule ensures the following steps occur more quickly to make pre- and post-election hearings more efficient.

  • Pre-election hearing
  • Distribution of election information to employees 
  • Ensures elections are held quicker 

Chairman Lauren McFaren stated, “It’s the basic principle of the National Labor Relation Act that representation cases should be resolved quickly and fairly. By removing unnecessary delays from the election process, the new rule supports these important goals, and allows workers to more effectively exercise their fundamental rights.”

This could be good news for unions, but it may not be the best news for your company.

Recent polls show that support for labor unions is strong across many industries. Therefore, no industry is entirely safe from the possibility of unionization. 

What Does This Mean for Your Company?

If you are an HR leader of a company at risk of unionizing, you should take these developments seriously. Building positive relationships with your employees is crucial to union avoidance. 

Supervisor training plays a critical role in maintaining employee satisfaction and reducing the likelihood of unionization. Well-trained supervisors understand company policies, labor laws, and employee needs. This enables them to foster positive workplace environments. 

When supervisors effectively communicate, provide support, and address concerns, employees feel valued and heard, diminishing their desire to seek representation through unions. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, supervisor training became something of an afterthought, and that is becoming evident. 

News From the U.S. Department of Labor 

In another recent development, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has also proposed a new rule. This rule aims to raise the minimum salary that workers must earn to be exempt from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. 

Basically, the proposed rule would increase the minimum salary for exemption from $684 per week to $1,059 per week or $35,568 per year to $55,068 per year. The rule would also raise the “highly compensated employee exemption” from $107,432 annually to $143,988 per year. Furthermore, the DOL could automatically adjust these figures every three years.

What Does This Mean for Your Company?

Like most employers and HR leaders, you may need to figure out which jobs will be impacted by this proposed rule. Then you might weigh potential overtime implications against the following options: 

  • Employing measures to shift duties and reduce costs
  • Switching employees from exempt to non-exempt 
  • Increasing employee salaries 

While inflation has led many employers to increase salaries over the past few years, few have increased by the substantial margin that the DOL’s rule suggests.

What Can You Do?

Although the NLRB’s changes become effective December 26, 2023, the DOL’s rule is likely to be decided in late 2023 or early 2024. Until then, the DOL encourages the public to share their opinions before it implements a final rule.

Employers who might be affected by this new rule should definitely take advantage of the opportunity to provide feedback. The DOL is required to consider all public comments before making a final decision. 

Although you should only make big changes once the DOL rule is finalized, it’s not too early to begin thinking about your strategy. That will make things easier when the final rule is eventually published.

When planning your response to the new NLRB rules, you should immediately fortify your HR department and begin training your supervisors and managers. Trained supervisors can resolve workplace issues promptly and fairly, addressing employee grievances without needing third-party intervention. 

That not only strengthens the employer-employee relationship but also contributes to a harmonious work environment that is less susceptible to unionization efforts.

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