Regulatory Wrap-Up: Paid leave returns to the spotlight
Labor Department: The Trump Administration announced a notice of proposed rulemaking related to its tipped wage regulations. Under the proposed rule, employers could establish tip-sharing policies that include all employees. The current rule which does not allow for tip-pooling amongst front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house workers has been the subject of multiple legal challenges and the U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing one of those cases. When this rule moves forward, the pending cases will become moot. The public comment period closes Jan. 4. A final rule will likely not be issued for many months.
Massachusetts: Local municipalities certified the signatures gathered by Raise Up Massachusetts to place two initiatives, a minimum wage increase and a paid leave mandate, on the 2018 ballot. The signatures must now be validated by state election officials. The minimum wage initiative would raise the state rate to $15/hr by 2022. Activists will have additional time to gather signatures (should they need it) by June 19, 2018 if the legislature fails to act on the issue.
Las Cruces, N.M.: The city council voted unanimously to correct a drafting error in its 2014 minimum wage ordinance. The error called for a cost of living increase to go into effect in 2018, rather than 2019. For 2018, the city will now maintain its minimum wage at $9.20/hr and $3.68/hr for tipped workers.
Minneapolis, Minn.: A district court judge heard oral arguments in the case brought by the state chamber of commerce against the city’s $15/hr minimum wage ordinance enacted last year. The chamber is arguing that the city ordinance is in violation of the state minimum wage law, which is a similar argument that was utilized by the chamber in its failed case against the city’s paid leave ordinance.
U.S. House: The House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing on the “Workflex in the 21st Century Act” which would offer employers with qualifying programs a safe harbor from the requirements of state and local paid leave mandates. It would apply to both full and part time workers. As expected, business proponents noted the confusing and cumbersome patchwork of state and local laws while opponents argued that the bill would allow businesses to evade current laws that cover millions of Americans. Next steps for the proposal are unclear, but several Republicans have voiced their support which could open a path to passage in the House. The U.S. Senate would remain a challenge absent vocal support from Democrats.
Massachusetts: Local municipalities certified the signatures gathered by Raise Up Massachusetts to place a paid leave mandate on the 2018 ballot. The signatures must now be validated by state election officials. The initiative seeks to provide a maximum of 16 weeks of paid leave at up to 90% of average weekly wages with a maximum of $1,000/wk. It would also create a trust fund into which employers would pay 0.63% of each employee’s annual wages. Activists will have additional time to gather signatures (should they need it) by June 19, 2018 if the legislature fails to act on the issue.
Chicago: Responding to calls for enhanced enforcement following the city’s 2014 passage of a minimum wage increase, the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection has simplified its complaint process and provided additional tools for investigators. For example, the department now allows investigators to issue subpoenas for all employee records, not just for the individual who filed the complaint. Also, advocates from Arise Chicago are drafting an ordinance to establish an Office of Labor Standards within the department to focus solely on enforcement of city employment laws.
New York City: Local efforts to increase wage enforcement in the construction industry are drawing headlines as district attorneys increase coordination across all five boroughs and nearby counties. Recent efforts resulted in indictments, uncovering $2.5 million in unpaid wages to workers. City officials have announced their intent to continue investigating and prosecuting wage theft issues. Their efforts will not be limited to the construction industry.
NLRB: New general counsel Peter Robb issued a memo outlining several issues he plans to address, including Obama-era joint employer decisions and standards. The memo clearly states that the board will operate under a different philosophy compared to its predecessor. Robb also rescinded many of the previous general counsel’s memorandums which direct the enforcement posture of regional offices.
U.S. Congress: Senate and House conferees are set to continue work this week on combining the two tax reform bills that passed each chamber, albeit with notable differences. The expectation is that conferees will produce a product for an up or down floor vote in each chamber at some point during the week of Dec. 18. Should those votes succeed, the package will advance to the President’s desk for signature.
South Dakota: Opponents of South Dakota’s landmark online sales tax case seeking to overturn the 1992 “physical nexus” precedent for sales tax collection obligations filed several amici briefs asking the Supreme Court to deny cert in the case. Several associations representing online and catalogue sellers, a handful of Members of Congress who have long opposed congressional solutions, and taxpayer groups all filed in opposition of the case moving to the Supreme Court. The groups generally argue that compliance is too complex for businesses and the issue should be solved by federal legislation, however all the groups represented are opposed to the legislation currently stalled in the House Judiciary Committee. The court will determine what cases may be heard during the 2018 term in the coming months.
- NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb’s memo this week to field directors outlining the types of cases that necessitate “alternative analysis” is a clear indicator that the NLRB will likely be reversing many of the Obama-era decisions and returning balance to the Board. This is the first concrete evidence that the new Board is seated, the staff is in place, and the real work of the Board that the employer community has long awaited is finally beginning.
- Instances of sexual harassment and assault continue to dominate the headlines. Expect those conversations and the resulting political energy to manifest in policy proposals at all levels of government. This week in Chicago, the local hotel union affiliate of UNITE HERE passed an ordinance requiring hotels to provide housekeepers with panic buttons. This is just one example of policies that will emerge in the coming months. Employers would be wise to help lead these conversations and voluntarily adopted and institute policies that protect workers and make sense within the context of their business.
Legislature Status for Week of 12/11/17
- The United States Senate is in session this week
- The United States House is in session this week
- The following state legislatures are in session year round: Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
- Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania are all meeting actively this week.
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Top e-commerce trends for 2018
Consulting firm Absolunet, based in Montreal, Canada, revealed its list of top 10 trends that will impact North American retailers in 2018. The impact will be felt across the entire supply chain: by manufacturers, distributors, retailers and consumers alike, says the company.
"The technologies themselves already exist, we expect the adoption and proliferation of these technologies to grow substantially this year, changing the very nature of how companies do business." says Charles Desjardins, Absolunet senior VP. "We hope that the top ten e-commerce Trends for 2018 report helps retailers, manufacturers and distributors gain valuable insight and helps them choose the right strategies and partners to bridge the ecommerce gap."
Here are the top ten:
• The rebirth of brick and mortar.
A breed of retail stores and in-person experiences will begin to replace outgoing retailers.
• The consumerization of B2B
The perfect storm is about to hit the nearly 1 trillion $ B2B e-commerce sector.
• AR in your house
Augmented Reality will go from "novelty" to a sales driver.
• ROPO, the new measure of a retailer’s digital success
Retailers will be able to know which clicks led to in-store sales.
• Mobile checkout overtakes desktop checkout
Mobile commerce's biggest challenge – checkout – will become its greatest asset
• A.I. will create the perfect customer experience.
Shopping will be customized and optimized for every consumer.
• Amazon and the year of marketplace maturity
Amazon will be a ubiquitous element in every e-commerce Business Plan in 2018.
• Voice will change Google/SEO/e-commerce forever
In 2018, consumers will speak to their devices and use voice to make purchases like never before.
• Photo shopping
Image-based product searches will be big in 2018, essentially altering the very nature of "search".
• Reaching peak browser
The browser will no longer be the de facto means by which we purchase products or services digitally.