The way ahead in 2022

As a turbulent 2021 comes to a close, the uncertainty persisting throughout much of year appears likely to continue in 2022. Regarding labor & employment law and civil rights, in particular, various factors make it difficult to predict with precision what will happen in the coming year. These factors include legislative, electoral, and judicial developments on the horizon as well as the unique and unprecedented challenges faced by the entire nation now.

The Biden Administration and the Democratic Leadership in both the United States House of Representatives and in the United States Senate have been pushing for adoption of the Build Back Better Act, which would expand workplace rights and related enforcement, invest substantial resources into meaningfully addressing the escalating climate crisis, and fund other progressive action to meet the most pressing challenges. By the slimmest of margins, however, the United States Senate is maneuvering to defeat this essential legislation along with proposed laws to restore and protect voting rights and other civil liberties. Related to this first factor, the outcome of both Federal and State elections in 2022 will likely determine if the obstruction in Congress and in State legislatures will continue or if the numerous initiatives to improve enforcement through, for example, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the United States Department of Labor, State enforcement agencies, and State Attorneys General will move forward more fully. In addition, rulings in the coming months by the highly politicized United States Supreme Court will have a substantial impact on the interpretation and application of labor & employment law and civil rights.

The ongoing global pandemic, which has no clear end in sight, also will continue to affect labor & employment law and civil rights in this country. Whether generating disputes about employer vaccination policies, the scope of remote working, the availability of paid leave and unemployment benefits, or other issues affecting the health and livelihood of people everywhere, the pandemic will likely create substantial difficulties for the foreseeable future. In addition, the attempts at a racial reckoning after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and of so many other unarmed people of color at the hands of law enforcement could provide a path for overcoming systemic, institutional, and individual discrimination. Moreover, the intensifying climate crisis poses a comprehensive threat that requires a comprehensive solution. The Build Back Better Act provides one an example of how to respond, but the adoption of this law remains in doubt for the reasons outlined above.