Federal agencies to release regulatory agenda

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Executive Order 12866 requires federal agencies to publish a schedule of regulations they plan to propose, enact, or revise during the next one-year period. The Department of Labor’s regulatory agenda has shown ambitious goals for its agencies in 2022, as has President Biden’s Build Back Better framework. Employers should be prepared for increased enforcement activity from agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), Occupational Safety and Health Administration Labor (“OSHA”) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”).

“As we enter 2022, the Department of Labor continues its efforts to empower workers morning, noon, and night,” Raj Nayak, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, said in a press release. Under the current Democratic administration, federal agencies have been bolstered by increased budgets and much-needed staff additions. And, although the Congressional debate over the Build Back Better Act calls into question the amount of additional funding for law enforcement, the push for workplace reform will continue.

Some of the priorities announced for the DOL this year include: creating more ladders to the middle class, increasing equity in the workforce, and ensuring safe and healthy workplaces. Law enforcement agencies plan to achieve these goals through a variety of initiatives. The EEOC, for example, will continue to focus on systemic discrimination and investigate bias resulting from the use of artificial intelligence (“AI”) and algorithms in employment decisions. The OFCCP also focuses on systemic discrimination, in hiring and compensation, and continues to refine its use of statistics in pay equity audits. As the OFCCP noted in its justification for the Congressional budget for fiscal year 2022, “The work of the OFCCP is more important than ever given our current economic situation. More than a year after the start of pandemic, millions of workers are still struggling.” OSHA, though faced with the Supreme Court’s recent suspension of its temporary emergency standard (known as the OSHA vaccine mandate, see our previous blog post ), maintains a robust regulatory program with dozens of rules in the pre-rule, proposed rule, and final rule stages.

Employers should also expect to see an increase in inter-agency cooperation, such as the EEOC and OFCCP’s new joint hiring initiative called “HIRE”, the Hirritant Iinitiative of Rto imagine Eenough. HIRE is a multi-year effort to expand access to good jobs for underrepresented communities. There will also be greater information sharing between agencies, which will likely lead to more coordinated enforcement efforts and increased referrals for investigation.

More details on the current federal regulatory program are available here, with the specific Department of Labor program here.

Copyright © 2022, Hunter Andrews Kurth LLP. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 19

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