Donald Trump once tweeted, “In the end, you’re measured not by how much you undertake but by what you finally accomplish.” However, it’s likely that Donald Trump’s first month in office will be measured by his accomplishments along with the scandals and protest he has encountered. His decisions on the issues that impact the American workforce have been marred with its fair share of change and controversy.
In his first day in office, President Trump signed an Executive Order instructing federal agencies to ease the burden of the ACA by waiving or delaying the taxes, penalties, or other regulatory burdens of the law. Since then, one of President Trump’s biggest campaign promises has turned into what likely may be one of his biggest headaches.
Despite Tom Price’s confirmation as Health and Human Services Secretary on Feb. 10 and three Republican-backed plans, uncertainty abounds. In the absence of an accepted replacement plan or clear direction from the Trump camp on how to repeal and replace, even Republican members of Congress are debating between a quick repeal and proceeding cautiously. The result of the confusion – anger & fear. With the healthcare of 22 million Americans on the line, constituents have been turning up to Town Hall Meetings in mass to express their anger, fear, confusion, and/or a mix of all the above. Employers are also left wondering what their responsibilities ultimately will be. The Jan. 20 executive order opened the door for the IRS to determine if the easement of the burden should be applied to the employer mandate.
On Dec. 8, Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants Inc., was selected as Trump’s pick for Labor Secretary – and the DOL nomination process got a little strange from there. Citing missing paperwork, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delayed the confirmation hearing a total of four times. After the fourth delay, Sen. Patty Murray told USA Today, “I am concerned that the absence of your paperwork at this late stage may impede the committee’s ability to perform a thorough review.” Amid the delays, questions began surfacing about Puzder’s business and personal dealings. Political pundits began questioning Puzder’s qualification for the job given the numerous labor violation by Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s (CKE Franchisees). On Feb. 6, The Huffington Post released an article chronically Puzder’s employment of an undocumented worker in his household. Then on Feb. 13, media-mogul Oprah Winfrey delivered the metaphoric “nail in the coffin” to Puzder’s future as Labor Secretary by turning over footage of his former wife accusing him of physical abuse during their marriage. Despite her later retraction of the allegations, some members of the HELP Committee found the footage to be troubling. Two days later, on Feb. 15, Andrew Puzder formally withdrew from consideration as Labor Secretary.
In a press conference on Feb. 16, President Trump named R. Alexander Accosta as his replacement pick for Labor Secretary. Acosta, who is noted as Trump’s only Hispanic cabinet nominee, is known as a middle-of-the-road Republican based on his time on the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In an interview with Law360, former NLRB Chair Wilma Libeman described him as “not knee-jerk anti-worker or anti-union.”
Since his days on the campaign trail to present day, immigration has been a hot button issue for President Trump. Within his first month, he has launched a full-scale battle against illegal immigration. On Jan. 27, President Trump signed the “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States by Foreign Nationals” Executive Order, freezing all immigration and visa entrance for individuals from seven nations. The order created widespread confusion in airports worldwide as green card holders and those with H-1B visas were detained or turned around. The order was quickly met with spontaneous protest at many international airports and rulings from courts in two states that the ban was unenforceable. Despite President Trump’s tweet to “see you in court” the government asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to disregard their appeal request since the administration planned to issue a new executive order shortly.
By the end of Trump’s first 30 days we didn’t see a new executive order reworking his immigration ban. However, we did see a more aggressive push to combat illegal immigration here on our home turf. On Feb. 20 the President issued memos on his new immigration policies and expanded the definition of “criminal aliens” to allow for the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agency to largely increase deportation rates. The new policies call for the Department of Homeland Security to:
- publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants; strip such immigrants of privacy protections;
- enlist local police officers as enforcers
- erect new detention facilities
- discourage asylum seekers
- speed up deportations process
In a surprise move on Tuesday, Jan. 31, President Trump upheld federal LGBT protections former President Obama established under Executive Order 13672. Prior to the announcement political experts speculated that the President would amend the order to provide an exemption for religious organizations. However, as the Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s office has stated, “President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election.”
However, on Feb. 22, the Trump administration issued a letter effectively reversing the Obama-era guidance on transgender students use of bathrooms that match their gender identity. The decision faced backlash from transgender activists such as Caitlyn Jenner, a Republican and Trump supporter. While the move does not affect private employers, it is expected to have ripple effects within the workplace much like the bathroom case that was before the Supreme Court in 2016.
Sticking to his promises to get out of the way of business, President Trump selected two employer-friendly picks within the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Supreme Court.
On Jan. 25, President Trump appointed Victoria Lipnic as the acting chairwoman of the EEOC. With the new chairperson, businesses may be in for a “less burdensome” EEOC. When it comes to the finalized EEO-1 regulation to collect pay data by gender, race and ethnicity, Ms. Lipnic may feel the agency is overstepping its authority.
With the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, whom the Washington Post rated as “the most Scalia like,” as his selection for the vacant Supreme Court seat, the President set the stage for employers to feel a sense comfort as workplace law conflicts are brought before the Supreme Court in the future.
On Feb. 28 President Trump delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress. During his 60-minute address, the President covered a wide range of topics. In addition to once again calling on law makers to institute a repeal and replace for the Affordable Care Act, the President also laid out his framework for immigration reform.
“I believe that real and positive immigration reform is possible, as long as we focus on the following goals: to improve jobs and wages for Americans, to strengthen our nation’s security and to restore respect for our laws,” said the Commander-in-Chief. “If we are guided by the well-being of American citizens then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades.”
President also laid out the structure of his “merit-based” immigration system. His plan would focus on allowing priority immigration based on skills and employability. As President Trump stated, “It’s a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially, yet in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon.” The plan is proving to be unpopular among those industries that rely on immigrant labor to run their business operations – namely manufacturing, agriculture, leisure and hospitality industries. Per research from the City University of New York, immigrant labor accounts form $434 billion a year of the country’s gross domestic product.
While the President’s stance is that moving to a merit based system will allow “struggling families, including immigrant families, enter the middle class” critics warn that the immigrants entering the workforce under the current family-based system only account for a small percentage of workers and there is no guarantee that reducing their numbers or substituting them with more skilled workers would impact wages or employment overall.
We are sure that the coming weeks and months of President Trump’s term will bring continued excitement. Follow Netchex on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for updates.