The 2016 Presidential election was arguably the most contentious, unpredictable, and politically polarizing race in this nation's history. The contours of the electoral map changed by the hour in the days leading up to November 8th, confounding even the most seasoned political observers. Although the House of Representatives was expected to remain in Republican hands, which party would control the Senate and of course the White House was decidedly less certain. In the end, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President on January 20, 2017, with a Republican majority in both Houses of Congress. What will this mean for employers?
Trump's unexpected win was a reflection of voter dissatisfaction with current policy. The overarching expectation of a Trump presidency is that he will reverse the workplace policy course President Obama set with his "middle-class economics" agenda over the past eight years. He will likely accomplish this aim by rescinding several employment-related Executive Orders, re-issuing former President Bush-Era Orders, and appointing agency officials who will stem perceived regulatory overreach.
President-elect Trump may be particularly emboldened by the composition of the 115th Congress. Throughout this horserace of an election, the Senate's chances of flipping to a Democratic majority appeared to be a real possibility, and many Republicans feared double-digit losses in the House. As election night wore on, however, it became clear that Republicans will retain control of the upper chamber, albeit by a slimmer margin. In the House, Republicans lost only a handful of seats, so their majority remains solid. Therefore, President-elect Trump's Cabinet, agency and judicial appointments will not likely receive insurmountable opposition in the Senate. Legislation advanced by Republican lawmakers will also likely be signed into law. However, absent further changes to the Senate filibuster rules, Senate Democrats may be the only remaining block on GOP legislative proposals.
Now that hopes of a progressive policy agenda are all but gone at the federal level, it is expected that legislation pushing for paid leave, minimum wage increases, and other worker-friendly measures will fall to the states and localities. This trend of local-level legislation, which is creating a constantly evolving patchwork of employer obligations nationwide, will likely continue over the next four years, at least in traditionally Democratic states.
In this article, we examine the workplace policy agenda that President-elect Trump promised to pursue once in office. While we cannot predict the future, we identify a variety of topics that may affect employers in the new Trump Era. On the whole, this surprise election outcome calls for renewed vigilance among employers to anticipate trends, identify opportunities, understand changes as they arise, and exert influence whenever possible.
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