Congress, particularly the Senate, has continued to distinguish itself through its ongoing failure to address the escalating needs of working people. Consequently, the incoming Biden Administration needs to act swiftly and boldly to counteract the significant damage to workplace safety and other protections for employees across the country. With new leadership, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) can take long overdue action to establish and enforce enhanced wage and safety requirements as well as protection against employee misclassification and joint employer abuses. To that end, the DOL should pursue rulemaking and other initiatives to broaden workplace rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act as well as expand the ability of aggrieved employees to obtain double damages and otherwise hold employers fully accountable.
As has been discussed here previously, the continuing lack of responsible leadership at the Federal level has compelled action at the State level. While the pandemic has raged seemingly out of control in the absence of clear or coordinated Federal action, numerous States have developed and promulgated necessary requirements for employers to secure greater workplace fairness and safety. In that regard, California leads the way by issuing a comprehensive and detailed rule addressing numerous issues ranging from physical distancing mandates to ventilation obligations. Such action at the State level, the proverbial laboratory for democracy, should provide an important model for the new administration at the Federal level as it ramps up the transition process.