The Bush years were some of the least employer-friendly in many decades. All of that is about to come to a screeching halt. There’s no doubt that the Obama years will be employee friendly. Earlier this month, as part of an omnibus funding bill, the House Appropriations Committee proposed nearly $344 million for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as almost $262.6 million for the National Labor Relations Board (both an increase over previous years). Congress has already overturned the Ledbetter decision, thus extending the filing period for back pay litigation based on unequal pay claims. Obama has come out with three pro-union executive orders, appointed a pro-union Labor Secretary and is looking to overturn many pro-employer decisions by the NLRB. COBRA protections were just expanded under the economic recovery legislation. The Employee Free Choice Act sits in Congress waiting its turn.
In addition to the shift in administration policy, tough economic times will trigger an increase in employee claims. Just ask any lawyer. According to Jury Verdict research, the average employee verdict jumped to roughly $270,000 in 2007 — the highest average verdict ever! We expect 2008 numbers to show similar results.
The bottom line: If you haven’t already, now is definitely the time to get your discrimination, harassment, wage and hour, ADA, and FMLA acts together! While you’re at it, make sure to stay abreast of the Employee Free Choice Act legislation and be prepared to address unionization without catching the ire of the NLRB.