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Washington Labor & Employment Wire » Wage and Hour

Living American Wage (LAW) Act of 2009 (H.R. 3041)

Core Provisions: The Living American Wage Act would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide for the calculation of the minimum wage based on the federal poverty threshold. This legislation would require the Secretary of Labor to recalculate the minimum wage rate by no later than June 1, 2010, and subsequently once every four years. The Secretary would be required to set the rate at such a level that a person working for minimum wage 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year would earn an amount fifteen percent higher than the federal poverty threshold for a family of two, including one child under the age of 18, as published each year by the Census Bureau.

The current federal minimum wage is $6.55 per hour and is set to increase to $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. The minimum wage is not currently tied to any federal poverty standards.

Status: Rep. Green (D-TX) introduced the legislation on June 25, 2009, and it was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor. Rep. Green introduced similar legislation in the 110th Congress, but that bill failed to make it out of committee.


Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 (H.R. 2819)

Core Provisions: The bill would amend several federal statutes to provide additional protections for breastfeeding.  First, the bill would amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect breastfeeding women from being discriminated against in the workplace.  The bill would explicitly provide that “breastfeeding and expressing breast milk in the workplace are protected conduct.” Second, the bill would establish certain tax credits for employer expenses incurred to promote or support workplace breastfeeding, while simultaneously modifying the Internal Revenue Code definition of “medical care” to provide individuals with tax deductions for breastfeeding equipment and consultation services. Third, the bill would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish performance standards for breast pumps and identify those pumps that are appropriate for use on a regular basis in places of employment.  Finally, the bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide that employers with 50 or more employees must provide breastfeeding mothers with adequate break time and privacy for breastfeeding needs. 

Status: Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced the bill on June 11, 2009, and it was referred to the House Committees on Education and Labor, Ways and Means, and Energy and Commerce that same day.


Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees Act (H.R. 2732)

Core Provisions: The bill, known as the “RAISE Act”, would amend the National Labor Relations Act to provide that an employer does not commit an NLRA unfair labor practice or violate the terms of a collective bargaining agreement by paying its employees greater wages, pay, or other compensation than provided for in the applicable collective bargaining agreement.  Thus, the bill would effectively establish that wage scales contained in collective bargaining agreements represent a floor, but not a ceiling, for bargaining unit employee pay. 

Status: Rep. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) introduced the bill on June 4, 2009, and it was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor that same day.


Paid Vacation Act of 2009 (H.R. 2564)

Core Provisions: This legislation would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers with multiple employees to provide paid annual leave to employees. Specifically, the bill requires employers with at least 100 employees to provide at least one week of paid vacation. Additionally, three years after enactment of the legislation, employers with 100 or more employees must provide at least two weeks of paid vacation, and employers with at least 50 employees must provide at least one week of paid vacation. Both full- and part-time workers would be eligible for leave after one year of employment.

Status: H.R. 2564 was introduced by Rep. Grayson (D-FL) on May 21, 2009 and referred to the Committee on Education and Labor.


Working for Adequate Gains for Employment in Services Act (H.R. 2570)

Core Provisions: The bill would amend Section 3(m)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act to increase the base minimum wage for tipped employees. “Tipped employees” are employees that customarily and regularly receive more than $30 a month in tips. Employers are currently required to pay tipped employees at least $2.13 per hour.

Under the bill, the base minimum pay for tipped employees would increase in a three-step process. Within 90 days of the bill becoming law, employers would be required to pay tipped employees at least $3.75 per hour. As of July 1, 2011, employers must pay tipped employees at least $5.00 per hour. Finally, as of July 1, 2012, employers must pay tipped employees at least 70% of the minimum wage for non-tipped employees, and no less than $5.50 per hour. The bill also requires the Secretary of Labor to provide notice of each wage increase in the Federal Register and on the Department of Labor website. 

Status:  Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) introduced the bill on May 21, 2009, and it was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor that same day.


American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454)

Core Provisions: On May 19, 2009, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved an amendment to the pending American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (”ACESA”) bill that, among other things, would make the Davis-Bacon Act prevailing wage rate requirements applicable to construction projects that are financed in whole or in part by the guaranteed loans established by the ACESA. 

Specifically, the amendment would require any borrower receiving loans under the ACESA to provide the Secretary of Energy with “reasonable assurances that all laborers and mechanics employed by contractors and subcontractors in the performance of construction work financed in whole or in part by the guaranteed loan” will receive wages at least equal to prevailing wages on similar projects governed by the Davis-Bacon Act.

Status: The amendment to the bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee by Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) on May 19, 2009, and was approved by the Committee on May 19, 2009.


Fair Pay Act of 2009 (S. 904, H.R. 2151)

Core Provisions: This Act would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to prohibit discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, race or national origin. The Act requires employers to provide equal pay for jobs that are comparable in skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions. It also prohibits companies from reducing other employees’ wages to achieve this pay equity. In addition, the Act mandates that employers disclose their job categories and pay scales to the public. Employers would still be able to differentiate in wage rates based on seniority systems, merit systems, and systems that measure earnings by quantity or quality of production. Aggrieved employees would have the choice of filing a charge with the EEOC or proceeding directly to federal court.  The bill would permit compensatory and punitive damages against non-government employers and allow plaintiffs to pursue Rule 23 class actions instead of the present opt-in collective action mechanism used for Equal Pay Act and FLSA actions.

Status: Sen. Harkin (D-IA) introduced S.904 on April 28, 2009 and it was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Rep. Norton (D-DC) introduced H.R.2151 on April 28, 2009 and it was referred to the Committee on Education and Labor. Substantially similar legislation was introduced in the 110th Congress, but failed to make it out of committee.


House Approves Bill to Prohibit Excessive Compensation for Companies Receiving TARP Funds (H.R. 1664)

Core Provisions: This legislation would amend the executive compensation provisions of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 to prohibit unreasonable and excessive compensation and compensation not based on performance standards. The bill would prohibit financial institutions that have received TARP funds or capital investment under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act from making any unreasonable or excessive compensation payment to any executive or employee whether under a pre-existing compensation arrangement or a new compensation arrangement. It would also prohibit bonuses or other payments not based on performance standards. The standard for “unreasonable or excessive” payments and for “performance-based” would be established by the Secretary of the Treasury within 30 days of enactment of the legislation.

Amendments to the bill allow the Secretary to exempt financial institutions receiving $250 million or less in TARP funds and allow institutions that enter into a payment schedule with the Department of Treasury according to the Treasury’s terms to no longer be subject to the bonus and compensation restrictions. An additional amendment exempts severance pay from coverage, subject to certain requirements, and establishes a Commission on Executive Compensation to study the executive compensation system for recipients of direct capital investments under TARP and make recommendations for legislative and regulatory action.

Status: Rep. Grayson (D-FL) introduced H.R. 1664 on March 23, 2009, and it passed the House on April 1, 2009.


House Committee Approves Bill to Prohibit Excessive Compensation for Companies Receiving TARP Funds

Core Provisions: This legislation would amend the executive compensation provisions of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 to prohibit unreasonable and excessive compensation and compensation not based on performance standards. The bill would prohibit financial institutions that have received TARP funds or capital investment under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act from making any unreasonable or excessive compensation payment to any executive or employee whether under a pre-existing compensation arrangement or a new compensation arrangement. It would also prohibit bonuses or other payments not based on performance standards. The standard for “unreasonable or excessive” payments and for “performance-based” would be established by the Secretary of the Treasury within 30 days of enactment of the legislation.

Status: Rep. Grayson (D-FL) introduced H.R. 1664 on March 23, 2009 and it passed the House on April 1, 2009.


Family-Friendly Workplace Act (H.R. 933)

Core Provisions: This legislation would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to permit employers to offer employees the choice of receiving paid time off in lieu of overtime wages. The legislation would permit employers to offer paid time off at a rate of one and a half hours of paid leave for each hour of employment for which overtime pay would ordinarily be required. Employees would have to consent in writing to swap paid time off for overtime, and would be able to withdraw their request for the arrangement at any time.

An employer would also have to pay out any accrued time within 30 days upon receipt of an employee’s written request. No employee could accrue more than 160 hours of compensatory time under the bill, and employers could provide monetary compensation for an employee’s unused accrued time in excess of 80 hours at any time after giving 30 days notice.

The legislation would require employers to set a twelve-month schedule and pay out any unused accrued time once a year. Employees agreeing to receive compensatory time off would have to have worked for the employer at least 1,000 hours in the preceding twelve months. An employer could only offer paid time off instead of overtime to unionized employees in accordance with a collective bargaining agreement.  Employers offering paid time off for overtime could discontinue the option at any time with 30 days notice to the employees, unless a collective bargaining agreement provided otherwise.

Employers would be required to accommodate reasonable requests by employees to use accrued compensatory time under the arrangement. The bill also prohibits employers from intimidating, threatening, or otherwise interfering with employees’ right to choose to receive either paid time off or overtime wages.  

Status: H.R. 933 was introduced by Rep. McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) on February 10, 2009 and referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor. Rep. McMorris introduced identical legislation in the 110th Congress on May 13, 2008. That bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor and was not acted upon thereafter.