The seemingly ongoing and escalating controversies at the Federal level make the legal environment somewhat unpredictable. If current trends persist, however, the Trump Administration will continue to attempt to limit workplace protections and related enforcement activity even more than it already has. At the same time, progressive leadership at the State and Local levels in many parts of the country will continue to attempt to expand workplace protections and related enforcement activity. The interplay between the regression at the Federal level and the progression at the State and Local levels will likely make the coming year highly dynamic when it comes to labor rights, employment law, and civil rights. Perhaps the only thing certain in 2019 about labor, employment, and civil rights law, then, is that the legal landscape will be uncertain.
Minnesota provides a good example of the potential for important and progressive action at the State and Local levels. Incoming Governor Timothy Walz, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flannagan, and Attorney General Keith Ellison all are making a priority of enhancing workplace fairness across the State through, for example, securing paid sick leave and a living wage for all Minnesota residents as well as committing to effective enforcement of the law. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman – in collaboration with community partners like The Advocates for Human Rights and a cutting-edge worker center, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL) – also shows what the future could hold. County Attorney Freeman is now criminally prosecuting a company for reportedly committing serious workplace violations. With such concerted efforts, the persistent problems of wage theft, retaliation, and other workplace abuses can be prevented or, when they occur in the future, more swiftly and decisively addressed.