Matthew D. Besser Cathleen M. Bolek Amy S. Glesius

Bolek Besser Glesius LLC

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The Trump who stole Christmas

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What should Ohio employees expect from a Trump administration?

As Cleveland employment lawyers who represent working Ohioans, we are very concerned about what the incoming Trump administration means for employment law and civil rights. If the President-elect’s cabinet picks are any indication, the omens are foreboding. During the next four years, Ohio employees should expect steps back for their rights and steps forward for corporate interests.

Support for anti-worker, pro-corporate labor-relations policies

Grinch TrumpEmployees should expect that the Trump administration will seek to restrict the right to bargain collectively. They should also expect a rollback of wage and hour laws protecting economically vulnerable workers.

At the outset, Trump appointees will control the Department of Labor, the federal agency whose mission it is to “improve working conditions” and “assure work-related benefits and rights.” The early signs are not good. The nominee for Secretary of Labor is a fast food corporate titan and outspoken critic of worker rights. He has publicly opposed raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to something approximating a living wage.

One particular policy change at the DOL seems pretty certain though. We assume the Trump administration will not support the recent (and long-overdue) Fair Labor Standards Act rule requiring employers to pay overtime to salaried employees who earn less than $913 a week. That rule—which would protect about 4.2 million working Americans—was supposed to go into effect on December 1st. But in late-November, a federal judge temporarily enjoined it. Expect the Trump administration not to fight that decision too hard. As a result, the current overtime rule—which has not been updated since 2004—will likely stay in place. Under that rule, employers may generally deny overtime to salaried employees earning just $23,660 a year.

Aside from the DOL, Trump will also appoint three of the five members of the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB is the federal agency whose mission is safeguarding the right to organize and bargain collectively for fair terms and conditions of employment. Almost certainly, Trump’s appointees will support laws (and employer policies) that crack down on those long-standing rights—rights that essentially created the middle class in America. In fact, as Governor of Indiana, Trump’s Vice President himself supported one of the nation’s harshest restrictions on the right to bargain collectively.

You’re a mean one, Mr. Trump.

You’ll take away our rights.

Your DOL will roll on back,

New overtime rules, Mr. Truuuuump.

Your Labor Secretary, hates minimum waaaaaaage.

You’re pro-corporate, Mr. Trump.

Here come anti-worker laws.

Your appointments to the labor board will kick workers in the rump, Mr. Truuuuump.

I wouldn’t touch your VP’s views on workers’ rights, with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole.

A step back for LGBTQ rights; a step forward for intolerance

Sadly, the new administration comes at a time when LGBTQ employees have been making great progress. The next four years won’t be as good for them as the last eight.

First, Trump has promised to repeal President Obama’s executive orders prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in federal employment and by federal contractors. Unfortunately, that’s not all.

The new administration has already proven how it views LGBTQ rights. As Governor of Indiana, the incoming Vice President notoriously fought to allow businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people on the basis of sexual orientation. So a reasonable observer might expect the new administration will be equally hostile to the LGBTQ community, both in the workplace and elsewhere. Yet there’s more still to worry about.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced its view that federal employment discrimination law prohibits sexual orientation discrimination. That new position marked a sea-change in the law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, based in Chicago, is expected to soon rule in favor of the EEOC in a major case called Hively v. Ivy Tech. That ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court, where the Trump administration (and the new Supreme Court Justice) will assuredly oppose these critical, new-found rights for LGBTQ employees.

You’ll make vile laws, Mr. Trump.

Why target equal rights?

Your VP has the dumb views of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Truuuuump.

Given the choice between the two, I’d take the seasick crocodilllllllllle.

These are foul laws, Mr. Trump.

Discrimination’s wrong.

If you fire folks just for who they love your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Truuuuump.

The three words that describe supporting hate are as follows, and I quote: Stink! Stank! Stunk!

Hard times for harassment victims; high times for bigots

Lastly, we also expect a rise in sexual harassment and other forms of workplace harassment.

Even casual observers of the presidential campaign know of the President-elect’s lewd comments about women and offensive comments about nearly everyone else who isn’t a white male. Perhaps inspired by those comments, a number of disturbed individuals embarked on a hate-crime spree in the wake of the election. We fear a similar attitude will carry over to workplaces, as intolerant supervisors or coworkers feel emboldened to harass and mistreat those who are different. At the same time, we can probably expect that the federal agency dedicated to eradicating employment discrimination—the EEOC—will soon become less vigilant in pursuing its lone purpose.

Compounding the problem, Trump will have the chance to start filling the federal courts with judicial appointments, from the Supreme Court, to the courts of appeals, to the district courts. When that happens, we might see a judicial system that becomes more suspicious of victims of workplace harassment and friendlier to corporate employer defendants.

This nauseates us, Mr. Trump.

With a nauseous super nos.

Harassment in the workplace has terribly sad costs, Mr. Truuuuump.

Will things really be that bad?

We hope we’re wrong to be so fearful that the new President will trample the rights of Ohio employees when it comes to minimum wage, collective bargaining, LGBTQ rights, protection for victims of sexual harassment, and a host of other critical workplace rights. But we sort of doubt it.

Yet fear not. As MLK reminded us, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” No administration—good or bad—lasts forever. If and when this new administration, or anyone else, encroaches on the rights of women, minorities, whistleblowers, or anyone else in the workplace, the employment lawyers at Bolek Besser Glesius will be waiting. And we’ll see them in court.

But in the meantime, these next four years are going to be…

A three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich

With arsenic sauuuuuuuuce!

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About Matthew Besser

Matthew D. Besser defends the rights of individuals in employment discrimination, civil rights, and constitutional law cases.

Matt is a former federal appellate law clerk, and an adjunct law professor at Case Western Reserve University. He is also a frequently invited speaker on an array of legal topics. Recognized for his accomplishments in the legal field, Matt holds the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell “AV Preeminent”® rating. Twice, U.S. News and World Reports has named him to its list of Cleveland employment law “Best Lawyers.” And Super Lawyers Magazine has named him a “Super Lawyer” for employment law in Cleveland four times. Twice before that, the Magazine named him one of its “Rising Stars.”

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