By Chris Morehead
For the Oregon Beer Growler
President Donald Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017, and like every POTUS before him, his policy decisions and cabinet nominations will have far-reaching impacts. The American workplace is no exception. Here are three issues we believe all employers in the craft beer industry should pay close attention to under Trump.
1. Workplace Safety – Rollback of OSHA Penalties/Reporting
On December 8, Trump tapped Andy Puzder to be the new secretary of labor, arguably the most powerful and influential position over the American workplace. In June 2016, the Department of Labor announced substantial increases to the fines and penalties associated with Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations. Those increases went into effect in August 2016. Under Puzder, breweries can expect those fines and penalties to likely be rolled back to pre-August 2016 amounts.
Around the same time, the Department of Labor finalized rules that will require employers to report workplace injuries to a database available to the public starting July 1, 2017. Perceived by many in the Trump administration to be unduly burdensome and a violation of privacy rights, those recordkeeping and reporting requirements may be eliminated or modified. But note that this doesn’t mean you can neglect your OSHA 300 forms.
2. Wage and Hour Laws
In the September 2016 edition, I wrote that the Department of Labor’s overtime rule, which was slated to go into effect on Dec. 1, was one of the biggest potential challenges facing many employers in the craft beer industry. The overtime rule would have required breweries and brewpubs to pay their salaried managers a minimum of $47,476 per year (roughly doubling the baseline standard) in order to qualify for the overtime exemption. However, a Nov. 22 court decision temporarily blocked the implementation nationwide. The decision is being appealed, but the issue likely won’t be heard until after Trump’s inauguration.
Even if the rule survives the court challenge, Puzder’s Labor Department is expected to scrap or water down the overtime rule, which would make the issue moot for brewers and brewpubs that have been awaiting some sort of clarity before increasing salaries for exempt employees. It is also worth noting that Puzder is a big opponent of the “Fight for $15” movement, so don’t expect any federal minimum wage movement for non-exempt employees either. (Note: this will not impact Oregon’s minimum wage increases).
3. Pay Equity
Pay equity is expected to continue being a hot issue across the country under Trump. In the last year, California and Massachusetts are just two beer-producing states that have enacted or revamped pay equity laws. In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will soon require all employers with 100-plus employees to report pay data for male and female workers. While this requirement will impact a relatively small number of breweries, others in the craft beer industry will be subject to those new regulations.
Moreover, in December 2016, Oregon legislators released draft versions of an Oregon equal pay law that will likely be a major agenda item in the 2017 legislative session. While the version is far from finalized, early indications are that craft beer employers can expect future legislation that may prevent them from inquiring about things like an applicant’s previous compensation (regardless of sex). Likewise, we can be almost certain that any such law will require you to “fix” any disparities shown on your payroll records, or otherwise require you to have an ironclad business justification for any pay disparity. Stay tuned.