Perspectives from the U.S. Federal Labor – Week of November 8, 2021 – Employment and HR

This is a weekly article highlighting labor topics developed by the legislative and executive branches of the United States over the past week.

In this issue, we cover:

  • Update on the US economy
  • Update on legal challenges to the federal vaccine mandate
  • Other general updates on COVID-19
  • US agencies promote workers’ rights
  • Proposal to cancel the final rule of religious exemption

Both houses of the US Congress were on vacation this week on Veterans Day. Lawmakers return to Washington next week, where House Democrats are expected to resume work on their version of the $ 1.7 trillion Rebuild Better Act, a social and climate spending bill that advances through the budget reconciliation process. Next Monday, US President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bipartisan $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

Update on the US economy. On November 10, the US Department of Labor published statistics reflecting inflation had risen to 6.2% in October – a 31-year high – with increases affecting the energy, housing, food, used cars and trucks and new vehicles sectors . The energy index rose 4.8% on the month, with the gasoline index rising 6.1% – its fifth consecutive monthly increase. The food index increased 0.9 percent, while the home food index increased 1.0 percent. Notably, the energy index has increased by 30 percent in the past 12 months, and the food index has increased by 5.3 percent. Supply chain disruptions and labor shortages have contributed to rising inflation in the United States.

While the Federal Reserve (“the Fed”) has repeatedly insisted that price pressures will prove to be “transient,” experts suggest that stronger inflationary pressures will likely lead the Fed to raise rates. interest sooner than expected. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned last week that inflation had “lasted longer than expected.” Meanwhile, Americans remain concerned about inflation, especially ahead of the holidays and cooler temperatures that lead to higher energy demand. Some surveys reflect most blame the Biden administration for the rise in prices due to inflation.

Update on legal challenges to the federal vaccine mandate. After several state attorneys general sued the Biden administration’s Temporary Standard (ETS) requiring employers with 100 or more employees to require COVID-19 vaccines or weekly employee testing, the Court of Justice The United States’ appeal for the Fifth Circuit (based in New Orleans) responded to a lawsuit and granted a stay. In its Monday response to court, the US federal government argued the suspension is “premature”, stressing that any prejudice cited by the petitioners in their challenge is “in months”. The Labor Department also argued that the petitioners could not show that “the injuries they claim outweigh the harm caused by maintaining a standard that will save thousands of lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of ‘hospitalizations’. The Department of Labor further cited federal law (28 USC § 2112) and recalled that there are procedures courts must follow when “multiple petitions for review of a single agency order are filed in at at least two courts of appeal within ten days of the issuance of the order. “

According to the rules governing multidistrict disputes, one of the courts of appeal will be chosen by lot to hear all pending cases. As a result, the Fifth Circuit may not be the court that will ultimately deal with the many outstanding regulatory challenges. Unsurprisingly, the Biden administration continues to urge employers to move forward to comply with the ETS and upcoming deadlines.

Other general updates on COVID-19. On November 8, the United States has taken over the reception of certain international travelers, after having been closed to all foreign travelers since March 2020. In a declaration On that day, Secretary Raimondo welcomed the lifting of international travel restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers, noting,

“The travel and tourism industry is a vital part of the American economy, providing millions of jobs for Americans, supporting local businesses and showcasing what our country has to offer to travelers around the world.”

The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Antimicrobial Drug Advisory Committee (AMDAC) is due to meet on November 30 to consider approving the use of molnupiravir, an antiviral pill produced by Ridgeback and Merck. On November 5, Pfizer reported its antiviral pill, Paxlovid, can reduce the risk of hospitalization by 89%. Pfizer has also announced its intention to submit its clinical data to the FDA for emergency use authorization soon.

American agencies promote workers’ rights. On November 10, the US Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a joint initiative to raise awareness of issues of reprisal when workers exercise their protected rights at work. Over the coming year, these civil law enforcement agencies will increasingly collaborate on issues such as unlawful retaliation, as well as public education and dialogue with employers, professional organizations, labor organizations and civil rights groups. A virtual dialogue with the employer community is scheduled for November 17 and will focus on the importance of workers ‘anti-retaliation protections for those exercising their rights, and the agencies’ joint commitment to “vigorous enforcement” .

Proposal to cancel the final rule of religious exemption. On November 8, the Ministry of Labor announced a proposal to repeal the final rule “Implementation of legal requirements regarding religious exemption from the equal opportunities clause”, which has been in effect since January 8, 2021.
A published proposal in the Federal Register on Nov. 9, noted that repealing this rule would ensure that religious exemptions are applied in accordance with principles and case law interpreting Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The ministry argues that the action “would preserve the availability of the religious exemption of Executive Decree 11246 for employers whose purpose and character is predominantly religious, and would examine the applicability of the religious exemption to the facts of each case in accordance with to the case law of Title VII. “Executive Decree 11246 demands affirmative action and prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin. interested in commenting on the proposal have until December 9 to submit their comments.

Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina), a ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee, issued the following declaration on the Labor Department’s proposal for a regulation to repeal the rule of the previous administration:

“This is a direct attack on every employer who dares to follow their faith. The Biden administration exercises its own First Amendment rights on a daily basis, but it is eager to withdraw this God-given protection of ordinary Americans. The rule. President Trump has benefited everyone, from taxpayers who depend on the necessary goods and services provided by faith-based organizations, to employees and job creators who do not have to deny their religion to compete for federal contracts. The proposed rule today only benefits the particular interests of the left.
[Department of Labor] is a pawn in Biden’s assault on religious freedom. “

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