Workplace Policies in the 2020 Election

October 21, 2020

Workplace Policies in the 2020 Election

On Tuesday, November 3, Americans have the opportunity to vote in the 2020 presidential election, congressional races in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and various state and local-level elections. These elections will shape the future of workplace policy. It is critical that HR leaders are informed of the issues and positions across a range of workplace topics. 

For further coverage on workplace topics in the upcoming election, visit SHRM Election Resources

Workplace Flexibility and Leave

Both presidential candidates support paid-leave proposals—which would be a first of their kind in federal legislation—though the paths each would take to create paid leave differ widely.

President Donald J. Trump supports the Advancing Support for Working Families Act that lets parents borrow money against future earnings to have income while they are off work to care for new children. In 2019, he signed into law a measure that makes federal employees eligible for paid parental leave.

Former Vice President and Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden supports 12 weeks of paid leave for all workers for their own health, a family member’s health, and childcare responsibilities during school closures. He also supports providing Social Security cards for people who leave the workforce to care for family.

Labor Relations

Biden supports a bill known as the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act that would significantly change labor relations law, making it more difficult to classify workers as independent contractors and expanding the definition of "joint employer."

Trump has promised to veto the PRO Act if it reaches his desk. During Trump's presidency, the National Labor Relations Board has consistently delivered employer-friendly rulings on a number of issues, noted Dan Altchek, an attorney with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr in Baltimore.

Workplace Health Care

Trump opposes the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a public option, but he supports health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) for businesses to have an alternate way to offer health insurance. He promises to do more to create a competitive market for health care service by continuing regulatory efforts to require hospitals and health care providers to be transparent about pricing.

Biden favors maintaining and expanding coverage under the ACA, and he would keep the employer mandate that requires organizations with 50 or more full-time or equivalent employees to provide ACA-compliant health care to their full-time workers—and to comply with the ACA's employer tracking and reporting requirements. He also supports lowering the age to enroll in Medicare to 60 from 64.

Both Trump and Biden support efforts to stop "surprise billing" by out-of-network health care providers as a way to lower consumer health care spending.

Retirement Plans

Biden's tax plan calls for changes to the traditional 401(k), ending upfront tax breaks that grow larger as more money is saved and replacing them with flat-tax credits. He also supports automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans and expanding Social Security benefits. 

Trump has not proposed fundamentally changing how 401(k) plans operate. He issued an executive order for temporary payroll tax suspension for COVID-19 relief and has floated the idea of replacing payroll taxes.

Workforce Development

Trump supports for-profit colleges, expanding Pell Grants for incarcerated persons and summer programs, and the passage of the FIRST STEP Act. 

Biden plans to work with agencies and the private sector to support skill development, employment assistance, and furthering education programs for transitioning service members. He also supports expanding access to GED education, skill development and employment assistance for formerly incarcerated individuals. 

Minimum Wage Increases

Biden supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. He also supports ending the tipped minimum wage and the subminimum wage for workers with disabilities. President Trump has sometimes supported that stance, but Republicans generally have been opposed to an increase to $15 an hour. 

The federal minimum wage has not been increased since 2009 and currently stands at $7.25 per hour. Twenty-nine states and numerous counties, cities and multistate employers have minimum wages higher than the federal minimum. Florida voters will consider a ballot measure this November that would raise the state's minimum wage to $15 by 2026.

Workplace Immigration

Trump supports a merit-based immigration system and opposes the diversity lottery as a means of deciding who may immigrate. 

Biden supports legislation that reforms temporary work visa system and increasing the number of visas offered for permanent work-based immigration.

Workplace Equity

Trump has not put forward a plan on workplace equity or expressed support for the bills supported by Biden. 

Biden supports the BE HEARD in the Workplace Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

The Authors: 

Deborah Stadtler is Managing Editor at SHRM’s Executive Network.