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A Better Partnership

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Apr 2007
01
April 01, 2007

Recent Developments on the Legislative Front

The newly formed Government Affairs Group at Warner Norcross & Judd is committed to providing our clients with the most up-to-date information regarding legislative news that may affect how our clients do business. The first days of the 110th Congress have presented several issues with respect to how employers interact with their employees.

First, as most of you already know, Congress passed legislation raising the federal minimum wage. Currently, the two houses are wrangling over bills that would provide tax relief for small businesses in connection with the federal minimum wage hike.

Second, on March 1, 2007, the House passed HR 800 -- the so-called Employee Free Choice Act --by a vote of 241 to 185. The Employee Free Choice Act would allow a union to be certified as the representative of an appropriate unit of employees if the union receives signed authorization cards from more than half of the employees in that unit. The bill would effectively do away with secret ballot elections to determine union representation. In addition, the bill provides for mediation if a first contract cannot be reached within 90 days of a request for bargaining and arbitration if mediation fails. Finally, HR 800 authorizes double damages for unfair labor practices committed by the employer in the time between certification of the union and adoption of the first contract.

Third, on March 6 Senator Clinton (D- N.Y.) introduced S 766, and Representative DeLauro (D-Conn) introduced HR 1338. These bills are known as the "Paycheck Fairness Act." This legislation would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to give "more effective remedies" to employees facing wage discrimination because of sex. In addition, the legislation creates a training program for "girls and women" to enhance their negotiating skills, provides for enforcement of equal pay laws for federal contractors, requires the Department of Labor to provide outreach and training programs aimed at eliminating sex-based pay disparities, and makes it illegal to retaliate against employees who discuss wage information with coworkers. Finally, the measure authorizes both compensatory and punitive damages for women who sue and win.

Lastly, on March 13 Senator Kennedy (D- Mass) and Representative DeLauro (D-Conn) sponsored a rally on Capitol Hill in support of the "Healthy Families Act." This legislation, which was introduced in both houses on March 15, will guarantee seven paid sick days a year to employees who work for employers with 15 or more employees to care for their own or a family member's medical condition. This legislation was previously introduced in 2004 and 2005, but no action was taken.

If you would like any further information about these bills or any other activity in the United States or Michigan legislatures, please contact me at tcumings@wnj.com / (616) 752-2731 or any member of the Labor Practice Group.

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