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Congress introduces wide variety of labor and employment bills

Bills are being introduced at a brisk pace at both the federal and state levels. While Congress focuses on President Obama’s recently enacted health care laws, many new labor and employment reform bills are being considered, including one sponsored by Congressman Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican.

Immigration reform

HR399, also known as the Stopping Trained-in-America Ph.D.s from Leaving the Economy (STAPLE) Act, would allow foreign students who have earned a Ph.D. in certain science and math-related fields from an American university to stay in the country upon graduation, providing they have a job offer in the United States.

In a recent press release, Flake, who re-introduced the bill last month, said, “Unless we want to see the next Google or Intel created overseas, we’ve got to enact legal immigration reforms that allow foreign-born, U.S.-educated students who have earned advanced degrees to remain and work in the country after they’ve graduated.”

Senate Bill 6, also known as the Reform America’s Broken Immigration System Act, was introduced by Democrats. Its sole purpose is to make a policy statement about legislation that should be enacted. The bill declares that it is the “sense of the Senate” that certain immigration reforms should be enacted. Those reforms include:

• Strengthening the nation’s commitment to border security.

• Reforming the immigration system to ensure that the best and brightest minds of the world can come to the United States and create jobs for Americans while, at the same time, safeguarding the rights and wages of American workers.

• Holding people accountable who are in the United States illegally by requiring them to earn legal status or face immediate deportation.

• Requiring all U.S. workers to obtain secure, tamper-proof identification documents and increasing penalties on employers who violate labor and employment laws.

• Supporting the nation’s economic security by enacting legislation such as the Dream Act and Agjobs. The former would allow students who came to the United States before age 16 to earn citizenship by attending college or joining the armed forces, while the latter would protect the sustainability of America’s agricultural industry by ensuring a stable and legal agricultural work force.

Labor

S217, the Secret Ballot Protection Act, was re-introduced by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. This bill would guarantee the right to secret ballots in union representation elections by making it an unfair labor practice for an employer to recognize a union not elected by secret ballot. The bill also would make it unlawful for a union to attempt to be recognized as the employees’ bargaining unit unless confirmed by secret ballot.

Credit checks

The Equal Employment for All Act, HR321, would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to prohibit employers from using consumer credit checks in making adverse employment decisions against employees and job applicants. The bill largely mirrors Oregon’s Job Applicant Fairness Act and, like the Oregon law, would not apply to applicants for positions requiring a credit check by law, or candidates for management positions in financial institutions.

— Howard Rubin is a shareholder in Littler Mendelson’s Portland office. Contact him at (503)221-0309 or hrubin@littler.com.

— Don Stait is Special Counsel in Littler Mendelson’s Portland office. Contact him at (503)221-0309 or dstait@littler.com.

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