Employers Brace for Impact: FWPC Spring Conference Examines Wave of Policies in Play at Beginning of Biden Administration, New Congress

April 30, 2021

“One thing is crystal clear:” noted Johnna Torsone, Chair of our Future Workplace Policy Council and CHRO at Pitney Bowes, “navigating the changing expectations of our stakeholders, including shareholders and employees, has never been more challenging in light of the extremes of both parties.”  Ms. Torsone’s remarks kicked off a two-day examination by policymakers, FWPC staff, and member companies of the most challenging issues as a new administration and Congress hits its stride. 

“Expect every workforce in every location to have greater exposure in terms of possible union organization,” said former NLRB Chairman Phil Miscimarra of Morgan Lewis, citing changes to NLRB policy and potential sweeping changes to labor law.  Mr. Miscimarra and HR Policy Senior Labor and Employment Counsel Roger King provided the keynote discussion on the short-term and long-term trends in labor policy.  

HR Policy staff was joined by Ms. Torsone and Dan Murphy, SVP and Deputy General Counsel, Labor and Employment/Labor Relations at Verizon, to take a deeper dive into employment policy at the dawn of a new political era.  With insightful input from Ms. Torsone and Mr. Murphy, the panel covered the major issues in play, including pay equity legislation, paid leave proposals, potential labor law overhaul, and greater scrutiny and enforcement of companies. 

The evolution of employment relationships—and the many labor and employment issues at stake—was debated by a panel led by HR Policy COO Henry Eickelberg.  He was joined by Judi Conti, Director of Government Affairs at the National Employment Law Project, Michael J. Lotito, Co-Chair of the Workplace Policy Institute at Littler Mendelson, Pat Pizzella, former Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor, and Rick Warters, Former Corporate VP, United Technologies.  The wide-ranging discussion covered several key questions, such as how to balance the need for productivity and flexibility and the safety net needed for those without the benefits of employment. 

The challenges of creating a new work model post-COVID: James Jones, VP of Human Resources and Chief Ethics Officer at Emerson, and Les Thompson, CHRO at ProMedica, joined HR Policy VP of Health and Employment Policy Mark Wilson to discuss the tough questions related to returning to work in a post COVID-19 world.  Their discussion was followed by breakout conversations among the participants, with readouts. 

“The future is bright for the union movement,” said former NLRB Member Harry Johnson III of Morgan Lewis as part of a panel discussing the future of organized labor.  He cited actions by the White House and the NLRB General Counsel that portend a more active role by government in supporting labor.  Roger King moderated the discussion, which also featured insights from Bob Long, CEO of IRI Consultants, and Brian Stern, Group VP at DaVita Healthcare Partners. 

Diversity a priority for companies as EEOC gears up operations under President Biden:  EEOC Commissioner Janet Dhillon noted the Commission is likely to pick up where it left off under the Obama administration.  The emphases will be on litigation, more broad-based, aggressive investigations, and enforcement rather than resolution by mediation or conciliation.  John Harrisingh, Head of Global Employee and Labor Relations at Johnson & Johnson and Natalie Rothman, EVP and CHRO at Advance Auto Parts, Inc., joined HR Policy CEO Tim Bartl in the discussion, describing their companies' diversity and inclusion initiatives.