By Andrea Johnson, National Women’s Law Center
As promised, President Trump just signed into law a bill overturning the regulations implementing Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order. Because who wants to be paid fairly and be safe at work?! Um . . . last I checked, everyone. Also ironic given that during his campaign, Trump promised to fight for workers, but the first law he is signing dealing with workers’ rights actually rolls back critical workplace protections.
The Fair Pay and Safe Workplace regulations required companies bidding on contracts with the federal government to disclose their history of violations of labor and employment laws relating to workplace safety, discrimination, and minimum wage and overtime pay. This seems like pretty reasonable information for the federal government to have when deciding which businesses should receive our hard earned tax dollars.
The regulations also required federal contractors to put basic wage information on employees’ pay stubs each pay period so employees could easily determine whether they are being paid for all the hours that they work. Also an incredibly reasonable and basic protection.
Importantly, the regulations also prohibited companies from forcing employees to arbitrate sexual harassment and other discrimination claims. This is also pretty reasonable given that mandatory arbitration (i.e. forcing an employee who complains of discrimination to go off to a private proceeding arbitrated by someone picked by the employer) helps employers hide sexual harassment and discrimination.
Ditching the Fair Pay and Safe Workplace rule hurts all workers, but is especially bad news for women. Women are more likely to work in low-wage jobs, and are vulnerable to labor and employment law abuses, like wage theft, sexual harassment and other forms of sex discrimination on the job, or retaliation when they try to unionize or enforce their rights. Sexual harassment is rampant, particularly in industries dominated by low-wage jobs, but is vastly underreported. Forced arbitration removes any incentive for workers to come forward, allowing harassers to continue their behavior without consequence and victims to be silenced.
The federal government should be doing business with companies that comply with federal labor and civil rights laws. That is kind of the bare minimum if you are getting the privilege of contracting with the government. Unfortunately, according to a 2013 U.S. Senate report, 30 percent of the top violators of workplace safety and wage laws continued to receive federal contracts. So this rule was not just a common sense protection, it was an urgently needed protection.
But because the bill President Trump signed into law today rolled back the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces regulations pursuant to the Congressional Review Act (a law which Congress is using to roll back a whole slew of rules that protect workers, consumers, the environment—you know, all important things), a future President and the Department of Labor are now forever barred from reissuing these regulations or anything substantially similar. Wow. The only way to get these common sense protections back would be for Congress to pass a law implementing them. So . . . yeah.
What a way to use your first 100 days, President Trump . . .