On November 19, 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act (BBBA), which would include the first federal enhancement of family and medical leave for private sector workers since the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) took effect in 1993.
The BBBA is far from official yet, as it faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate. However, there are provisions that employers should be concerned about if it passes, such as changes to paid leave, wage and hour, and workplace safety.
Many employers are considering how the following requirements will affect their businesses, especially when it comes to fines for noncompliance. The significant increase in proposed fines is part of a strategy to collect an additional $2.76 billion of revenues, which would in turn be used to pay for the BBBA’s benefits. Some fines could be substantial enough to hurt a business’s operations.
Universal Paid Family and Medical Leave. As passed by the House, the BBBA provides four weeks of guaranteed government-paid family and medical leave for caregivers. The definition of caregiver would be significantly expanded to include siblings, grandparents and “any other individual who is related by blood or affinity and whose association with the individual is equivalent of a family relationship.” The maximum benefit is approximately $800 per week and applies to both employees of businesses and those who are self-employed. Unlike the FMLA, an employee need not be employed for any minimum length of service to be eligible for the leave. The program also applies to all employers, regardless of size. If enacted, the paid family leave program would become effective January 2024.
Wage and Hour. The BBBA adds penalties for employers who violate labor laws. It would, for example, significantly increase civil penalties for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. For child labor violations, the penalty would increase to $132,270; for violations resulting in death or serious injury, fines would be increased to $601,150. Willful or repeated violations of minimum wage or maximum hours would increase to $20,740, and penalties for tip violations would rise to $11,620.
Workplace Safety. Employers who are cited for violations by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would see steep increases in fines. For example, employers would face a $700,000 fine for a ‘willful’ violation (up from $70,000) and penalties for failing to correct a violation would increase from $7,000 to $70,000 per occurrence.
While the BBBA’s enactment is still uncertain and may not even happen, it’s good to be prepared and informed about matters that could affect your business’s operations. If you have questions about the BBBA, feel free to reach out to MarathonHR.