Biden Administration Rolls Back Trump-Era DOL Policies


Almost immediately after taking the oath of office, President Joe Biden has begun rolling back a series of policies, rules, and opinion letters promulgated by the Department of Labor (“DOL”) under former President Donald Trump.  

First, President Biden rescinded a Trump-era rule that limited the DOL’s ability to issue and rely upon sub-regulatory guidance by defining “guidance” to exclude documents not intended for a public audience.  Had it not been revoked, this rule would have limited the Biden DOL’s ability to issue guidance on important matters like the standard for determining employee status and, more generally, frustrated the DOL’s ability to confront rampant income inequality that has been brought (even more) to light by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Second, President Biden withdrew three opinion letters issued during the twilight of Trump’s lame duck term.  These letters: (i) permitted employers to establish tip pools that include back-of-house employees and, by doing so, pay them below the federal minimum wage; and (ii) lowered trucking companies’ and (iii) certain food distributors’ burdens to establish that their workers are independent contractors not entitled to, among other things, overtime wages.  Both eleventh-hour opinion letters issued by the Trump DOL would have been incredibly harmful to workers across three major industries had they not been withdrawn. 

Lastly, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs under President Biden recently shut down a tip line instituted by the Trump DOL.  The tip line was created for federal workers to complain about anti-discrimination and unconscious bias trainings, which the Trump Administration had deemed “un-American.”

The Biden Administration has plenty of work ahead of it to undo the disastrous policies put into place by the Trump DOL, though the courts have already lent a hand by striking down a proposed rule perverting the joint employer standard to the detriment of workers, in addition to discriminatory rules proposed by other federal agencies under Trump.  That said, the actions the Administration took during its first week are undoubtedly a good start.
 

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About Alex Hartzband

Alex Hartzband's practice is focused on employment litigation. Alex is a senior associate in the firm's New York office.

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