The $1.1 trillion bipartisan budget bill that President Obama signed just before the end of 2015 prevented yet another budget-crisis induced federal government shutdown, funding Uncle Sam’s operations through the end of fiscal year 2016 in September.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 gave both parties some of what they wanted, including delaying, until 2018, the Affordable Care Act’s “Cadillac tax” on high-priced health insurance plans offered by some employers and unions.
But hidden in the corners of the spending bill were some surprises that may affect employers more than the delayed health insurance tax. They affect the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
EEOC: No bias testers. The bill gave the EEOC almost every dollar of funding it requested, but it also specifically prohibited using any federal funds for so-called “testers.”
In the past, the EEOC would send members of a particular protected class to apply for jobs, armed with résumés precisely reflecting advertised qualifications. If the tester was rejected, the EEOC would use that as the basis for proceeding with a discrimination investigation. Under the new budget bill, that can’t happen.
DOL enforcement unfunded. The bill increased the DOL’s budget to $12.2 billion. It did not, however, provide funding for 300 more enforcement employees or 15 new employees dedicated to implementing recent executive orders on equal pay and safe workplaces.
No new curbs on NLRB. The NLRB received the same level of FY2016 funding as it did last year. The bill, however, did not include a provision some employers had sought that would have restricted the NLRB’s efforts to push joint employer liability and quickie “ambush” union elections.