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A Regulatory Agenda that Empowers Workers Morning, Noon and Night

An illustration of a point on a map.

Twice a year, every federal agency, including the Department of Labor, releases a list of  the regulations they have under development, aka a regulatory agenda. On one level, it’s a snapshot of our current progress on the regulations that we’re working on, and a roadmap for the year ahead. But beneath the surface of every regulation is a story about workers — and our values. This spring, our agenda reflects Secretary Walsh’s commitment to empowering workers morning, noon, and night. 

This means valuing and investing in the care economy and addressing the care needs of workers and their families in ways that allow them to thrive in their jobs. That’s why our Occupational Safety and Health Administration has pledged to protect workers in healthcare with a final rule on COVID-19 protections later this year. OSHA is also preparing a proposed rule for next spring to help employers protect their workers against infectious diseases more broadly. In addition, our Employee Benefits Security Administration is working to implement laws to ensure parity of mental health and substance abuse disorder benefits so workers in need of mental health care can access it as easily as other types of care. 

And for workers on the job, we are building a modern, inclusive workforce — ensuring workers have good jobs, opportunities for advancement, and a seat at the table. This year, our Wage and Hour Division will be working hard on final rules modernizing Davis-Bacon and Related Acts wage determinations to ensure the Administration’s historic infrastructure investments lead to good jobs with strong worker protections. WHD is also considering new rules that will help more middle-income workers have good, quality jobs and aren’t shouldering more work without more pay. 

At the end of the day, workers want the peace of mind that one setback won’t destroy their family’s well-being. That is why EBSA is preparing final rules to clarify when retirement plans can account for climate-related financial risks as plan managers decide how to make investment decisions or cast proxy votes. And our Employment and Training Administration is considering a final rule to promote Registered Apprenticeships as the gold standard of the workforce and training system. 

With this broader vision, our spring agenda also represents so many of the Biden-Harris administration’s key priorities. As part of the administration’s commitment to respond to the dangers of extreme heat, OSHA has also engaged stakeholders as they consider a proposed rule on heat illness prevention at work, both indoors and outdoors. Our regulations are also advancing the administration’s commitment to equity, by modernizing affirmative action programs for federal supply and service contractors and subcontractors. And as part of President Biden’s pledge to lead the most pro-union administration ever, we are proposing to require companies that use anti-union consultants who try to persuade employees not to form a union to identify themselves when they are federal contractors. 

So much of our regulatory agenda requires – and truly benefits from – input from the public, especially the workers, businesses and others who are impacted by our rules. Rulemaking experts throughout the department will be working hard on our regulatory agenda over the next year to advance the Secretary’s vision of empowering workers morning, noon, and night. We hope to hear from you during that process. 

Diana Boesch and Patrick Oakford contributed to this post.

Rajesh D. Nayak is the assistant secretary for policy.

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