Construction-Industry Employers Should Be Aware of Proposed Legislation

Employers should be aware of several employment and labor law initiatives in the state and federal legislatures.  Congress currently is considering the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), and the RESPECT Act, for starters. And the Construction Industry Independent Contractor Act, which was quietly passed by the Delaware and Pennsylvania Houses poses serious risks to employers in the construction trade.

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Employee Free Choice Act

The EFCA could be a silent killer.  It has managed to keep a very low profile during its months-long visit to Capital Hill.  In short, it would eliminate the secret-ballot vote and would require employers to recognize a labor union without an election.  The long-unchanged law currently requires employers to choose between recognizing the union and a secret-ballot election if more than 50% of employees in a bargaining unit sign a union authorization card. 

If passed, the EFCA would change this procedure entirely.  Employers would have to recognize the labor union immediately if more than half of the workforce signs union cards.  And, to make it worse, there’s not much an employer can do about it.  Union campaigns can be fully underway before the employer even learns about it.  And interference in card-gathering activities would subject the employer to civil penalties.

RESPECT Act

The unfortunately named RESPECT Act poses another labor-related threat to employers in the construction industry.  The “Re-Empowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction Tradeworkers Act” would amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by redefining the definition of “supervisor.”  If passed, the RESPECT Act would eliminate the current requirement to obtain supervisor-classification that the employee must posses the authority to assign work to others and to responsibly direct employees.  Instead, the definition of supervisor would be much more difficult to satisfy.  The proposed definition would require the employee to exercise authority over employees for a majority of his or her working time.

There is a giant leap from possessing authority and exercising that authority for a majority of working time. 

We’ve posted about the state-level initiatives that would criminalize misclassification of employees as independent contractors that have passed the House both in Delaware and in Pennsylvania.  It may be that the definition of “independent contractor” becomes key in avoiding a criminal conviction.  The EEOC provides a non-exclusive list of 17 factors, as well as examples of the factors in use, for use in making that determination.

Helpful Resources

Kris Dunn at The HR Capitalist has a persuasive post about the Employee Free Choice Act and the potential catastrophe it could cause if passed.

The American Nurses Association, which is very pro-RESPECT Act, has a current list of the legislators who support the bill–check to see if your state’s legislator is one of the them.  If he or she is on the list, put pen to paper and tell your elected officials what you and the entire industry stand to lose if the RESPECT Act is passed.

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