Current U.S. Labor Laws and Trends in 2017

Here, we provide an evaluation and practiced look into the overarching umbrella which is United States federal labor law, some notable variance of state labor law, and the best of predictive trend forecasting for the rest of 2017. It goes without saying that the remaining and following year may see some difficult-to-predict upheaval and change, much of which centers around recent elections. Yet with that aside, we will first examine — with a brief recap — some essential basics.

Labor Laws - Group of employees at table


Definably, the purpose of U.S. labor law is attuned to the protection and well-being of the American workforce. While many of these rules and regulations may unsettle business owners as a superfluity of obnoxious red tape and bureaucracy, we can soften our regard a bit by recalling the conditions which brought about their original predecessors.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) has been amended and undergone rule changes 21 times (given your preference to counting sub-classifications), but at the outset it set the gold standard that we know today, establishing:

  • A federal minimum wage
  • Outlawing child labor
  • 40 hour work week and assured overtime pay

The FLSA has since grown to incorporate a wealth of worker protections and collective bargaining rights. The last federal minimum wage hike was set to ink in 2007, to $7.25 an hour.

The following should neatly sidestep any position-taking or opinion-gathering on these particular issues and focus rather on two spheres of interest: What is, and what may be. We leave it to the clever executive to determine his or her own footing on this shifting ground.

Related:  Comprehending FMLA:  A Basic Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act

What’s New

As mentioned, federal law sets the standard of the land. However, many states legislatures have grown weary of waiting for federal action pertaining to the minimum wage. The following are a few examples of the most recent proposals for raising hourly wages:

  • Arizona: Raising from $8.05 to $12
  • Maine: Raising from $7.50 to $12
  • Seattle and LA: Raising to $15
  • Colorado: Raising from $8.31 to $12

Additionally, there has been a commensurate legislative response – again at the local level – in attempts to address the trend of businesses and companies phasing out “sick days” in favor of “Paid Time Off” (PTO), a move which has been strongly linked to both increased sickness and lower morale in the workplace. Therefore several states and cities have introduced Sick Leave laws, allowing for a gradual accrual of dedicated hours meant to cover times of illness without depriving the employee of much-needed vacation hours – thus attempting to circumnavigate the impact on productivity and profit margins.  However, the data is still out on the effectiveness of this move.

stack of ring binder book or notebook isolated on white


What’s Next

According to an interview with GovDocs, two things are abundantly clear: (1) The most visible trends are progressive ones, such as those dealing with minimum wage hikes and protecting and/or accommodating leave (as well as expanding the types of leave covered), and (2) despite state and city jurisdiction making their own rules, the current administration is such an unknown that many viable speculations as to what may or may not occur at a federal level may be logically discounted for the foreseeable future.

Two further changes of which all employers of every level should be aware are increased restrictions on background checks and criminal history inquiries, and the move pushed by U.S Citizenship and Immigration to a new I-9 form.

To close, remember that first and foremost, labor laws are meant to protect your workers in both health and safety. As these laws, and their direction, have a direct impact on business owners and corporations alike, it is always the right choice to stay on the ball with the latest discussions surrounding these topics; as developments are sure to shift over time.

Fred Coon, CEO


Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200