HR Issues Update - March 16, 2007
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Highlights of SHRM’s 2007 Legislative Conference

This past week, more than 560 people participated in SHRM’s 24th annual Employment Law and Legislative Conference in Washington, DC. The program featured a balance of Democrats, Republicans, and non-partisan experts, providing SHRM members with the range of information and perspectives.

NBC’s White House correspondent David Gregory provided an insider’s glimpse into how the White House press corps and the Administration fulfill their respective roles.  During a lengthy question and answer period, he said he has a responsibility to question a President from any political party in the same manner.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao explained the Administration’s positions on several pending employment and labor bills, and expressed her gratitude to SHRM members for their active involvement in public policy issues.  You can listen to Secretary Chao's entire speech at the SHRM Website.

Donna Brazille, a former Democratic campaign operative, provided her perspective - both serious and humorous - on the upcoming Presidential campaign for both parties.  She encouraged SHRM members to “stay involved” in the political process, regardless of personal views or party affiliations.

Michael Beschloss, one of America’s most recognized historians and commentators, discussed the unique role that historians play in providing a perspective on our leaders’ actions.  He shared intimate anecdotes about Presidents Truman, Kennedy and Johnson to illustrate how great presidents often take risks to achieve change, even if it might weaken their chances for re-election.

In addition to two full days of in-depth sessions on a wide range of workplace issues, SHRM members participated in nearly 300 Capitol Hill meetings with their elected officials.  (See related article in this issue.)

This year’s Legislative Conference also included:

• An advertising campaign in Washington, DC publications to promote SHRM and the importance of HR professionals’ involvement in public policy issues.

• Radio and print media interviews with many SHRM State Legislative Directors to help explain to their local communities how the HR profession is involved in a range of workplace issues.

• An intense focus on SHRM’s efforts to promote a fair, accurate and reliable employment verification system in any immigration reform legislation.

SHRM is a founding leader of the HR Initiative for a Legal Work Force coalition.


SHRM Members Help Educate Congress

Approximately 200 SHRM members from 48 states and the District of Columbia traveled to Capitol Hill this week to share their expertise and explain SHRM’s positions on employment verification, workplace flexibility issues, and the Employee Free Choice Act (also known as the “Card-Check” bill). 

The Society’s HR professionals met with their elected officials and congressional staff on Wednesday, March 14, 2007, the final day of SHRM’s 2007 Employment Law and Legislative Conference.

Prior to their congressional meetings, SHRM members heard from U.S. Representative Kendrick Meek (D-FL), who stressed the importance of member advocacy in advancing the interests of the HR profession.  Meek also outlined the Democratic Party’s agenda for the 110th Congress and its priorities in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election.

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), a SHRM member and the senior Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, told members that their views were critical on such issues as the “Card-Check” bill, proposals to expand employee benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act, non-discrimination legislation relating to genetics, and immigration reform. 

Thank you to all those who participated in promoting the interests of the HR profession!  Look for pictures of SHRM members on Capitol Hill and at the 2007 Employment Law and Legislative Conference on the SHRM Government Affairs homepage on Monday, March 19, 2007. 

Confused by Health Care Proposals? Here’s SHRM’s Guide!

With both the cost of health care and the number of uninsured workers rising, several policymakers have offered reform proposals at both the federal and state levels. To help HR professionals better understand these health care plans and their impact on employees and employers, SHRM created a special guide titled Understanding Health Care Reform: A Comparison of Major Federal and State Health Care Initiative.

The guide, which is organized in two parts (federal and state), is a reference tool that describes the major health care reform proposals that are likely to be debated in 2007 – 2008, and during the upcoming presidential campaign. 

• The federal section compares four leading national proposals being advanced by Congress and the Bush Administration.  All are designed to increase access to health care, but they differ in how to achieve this goal and how they impact the role of employers in delivering health benefits to employees.

• The state section compares four different approaches from California, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont.  A key element in each proposal is a requirement that employers either provide coverage to their employees or pay a penalty to fund state-sponsored health care coverage.

If you would like a printed copy of Understanding Health Care Reform or if you have questions about health care reforms in general, please e-mail Lisa Horn in SHRM’s Government Affairs department or telephone her at 703/535-6352.

SHRM Survey Shows FMLA Needs Clarity

Nearly two-thirds of HR professionals have experienced problems in determining when to grant “chronic leave” under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), leading to employee morale issues and loss of productivity, according to a new SHRM survey.  The survey, which was released by The National Coalition to Protect Family Leave on March 13, 2007, also found that more than half (51%) of HR professionals have faced “significant challenges” in implementing the medical leave provisions of the FMLA.  SHRM leads the Coalition.

“The FMLA is an important labor law designed to benefit all employees, and it deserves to be administered fairly, as Congress intended,” said Susan R. Meisinger, SPHR, President and CEO of SHRM and a Coalition leader.  “Our survey demonstrates that clearer rules are needed to eliminate the persistent confusion among employees and employers since the FMLA became law 14 years ago.”

As currently interpreted by the U.S. Labor Department, the FMLA has become one of the largest causes of rising business costs associated with uncontrolled employee absences.  SHRM and the Coalition are working to highlight the need changes in the FMLA rules.

SHRM’s survey of over 600 human resource professionals across the country quantifies difficulties surrounding FMLA implementation.  Other key findings were: 

• 4 in 10 HR professionals have had to grant FMLA requests that they believed were not legitimate due to the Department of Labor’s regulations or interpretations.

• More than half (57%) of respondents found it somewhat difficult or very difficult to determine if a health condition is a “serious health condition.”

• 80% of respondents said they had difficulty tracking and/or administering intermittent FMLA leave.

• Almost half (47%) of HR professionals experienced challenges in administering and/or granting leave under the FMLA for employees with serious health conditions as a result of episodic conditions.

For more information about The National Coalition to Protect Family Leave or SHRM’s work to clarify FMLA rules, please contact Lisa Horn in SHRM’s Government Affairs department or call her at 703/535-6352.