SHRM Leaders Outline Priorities at DC Legislative Conference

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

March 12, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) stated its intention to step up involvement in all work-related legislative and policy issues at its annual Employment Law and Legislative Conference in the District of Columbia. In his opening remarks, new SHRM president and CEO, Johnny C. Taylor, affirmed that the organization will increasingly bring HR's voice to the table with political leaders to discuss workplace policy. Afterward, SHRM's VP of Government Affairs, Michael Aitken, briefed attendees on current events and legislation that the organization is following.

SHRM Won't Shy Away From Tough Issues

In his first address at a major conference as head of SHRM, Taylor said the organization will not shy away from providing input on issues, including potentially hot or sensitive issues like the #MeToo movement, immigration and pay equity. SHRM should have a "bold purpose" to have "monumental impact" in elevating HR as a profession and improving the workplace, he said.

Taylor said SHRM's goal is that "no major piece of US legislation should be written without our voice." To achieve that goal, Taylor identified three ways in which the organization must advocate, saying SHRM must be:

  • The voice of all matters "work;"
  • The voice of courage; and
  • The voice of nonpartisanship.

"I promise you," Taylor said, "starting today you will find SHRM speaking and acting in all these ways I've described."

Legislative Overview

Aitken gave attendees an overview of different issues where SHRM is taking a stand. One of the biggest involves paid leave. Aitken noted that nine states and over 30 localities have mandatory paid leave laws. In some cases, localities in the same state have different and conflicting requirements, making it very difficult for employers in multiple jurisdictions to comply.

As a solution, SHRM helped draft and is lobbying to pass the Workflex in the 21st Century Act. Aitken explained that the Act would allow employers to voluntarily offer employees a qualified flexible work arrangement plan that includes paid time off that meets a federal standard and flexible work options. The plan would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and preempt state and local paid leave laws.

Another prominent area that HR needs to be aware of, said Aitken, is continuing work on a revised overtime rule. Aitken explained that the US Department of Labor is reviewing comments from its 2017 request for information on revising overtime regulations, and is expected to put out a notice of proposed rulemaking in October. In an informal poll, Aitken asked attendees their opinion on how the overtime rules should be changed. A majority (53%) responded that the overtime salary threshold should be increased moderately but only 4% agreed with indexing the overtime salary threshold with inflation, views that align with SHRM's positions.

Other issues that SHRM will be focusing on this year include immigration and talent development. SHRM is working with its affiliate, the Council for Global Immigration, on legislation that would:

  • Modernize the immigration workforce process;
  • Resolve the DACA controversy; and
  • Provide tools for hiring a legal workforce.

Similarly, with the economy operating at full employment and many organizations reporting difficulty with hiring, SHRM is promoting programs to aid in sourcing employees from those who have disabilities, were formerly incarcerated or are veterans.