A blizzard of new regulations affecting businesses came out in the final days of the Clinton administration. The new ergonomic rules may be the most expensive in the long run. But they aren't the only rules you need to be aware of. Here's an overview:
- H-1B visas. The number of foreign skilled workers allowed into the United States on H-1B visas will jump to 195,000 this year. New interim final regulations from the U.S. Labor Department require you to provide the same benefits to these workers as to other staff. Also, the new rules require employers to attest that they favor U.S. workers in hiring and won't replace U.S. workers with H-1B workers. (Dec. 20, 2000, Federal Register).
- Health/benefit plans. An abbreviated version of the Patient's Bill of Rights gives employees the right to faster decisions on their health care claims. This could increase costs for employers.
- Contractor 'blacklist.' New rules would allow the government to deny federal contracts to businesses that have a "pattern" of violating federal labor, employment or tax laws. (Dec. 20, 2000, Federal Register). Business groups have filed suit over the rules. Read their view at www.noblacklisting.org.
- Affirmative action. Federal contractors now have to fill out a survey that requests compensation data broken down by race and gender. (Nov. 13, 2000, Federal Register)
For more information on these and other "midnight regulations," visit www.regradar.org or visit the Web sites of the agency that issued them, primarily the Labor Department, www.dol.gov.