President Biden’s $6 trillion 2022 budget proposal focuses on worker protections—including the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. Both of these plans contain labor and numerous employment initiatives. The budget proposes increased funding for the Department of Labor (“DOL”), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), and the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”).
The 2022 budget calls for $2.1 billion, an increase of $304 million, in DOL’s worker protection agencies. Over the past four years, those agencies have lost approximately 14 percent of their staff, limiting DOL’s ability to perform inspections and conduct investigations.
For example, staff losses at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration have strained resources, particularly amid the increased threats to workplace health and safety created by the pandemic. The 2022 budget provides an increase to OSHA of more than $73 million to help OSHA rebuild its rulemaking and enforcement capacity, expand its whistleblower protection program, and increase its outreach and compliance assistance. OSHA hopes to double the number of inspectors by the end of President Biden’s first term—a significant increase of 207 new enforcement positions and of 63 for the whistleblower programs.
At DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”), the 2022 budget increases funding by more than $30 million. This would be used to support WHD’s efforts to review worker misclassification issues, along with enforcing other regulated areas, such as prevailing wages and family and medical leave.
Finally, the 2022 budget requests a $35 million increase in funding for the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs (or “OFCCP”), the chief regulator for federal contractors. The request restores resources to oversee and enforce the equal employment obligations of federal contractors, including protections against discrimination based on race, gender, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation. The 2022 budget request includes funding for an additional 175 staff positions for enforcement.
The EEOC proposed budget increases the agency’s funding level by 10 percent to approximately $446 million. The budget calls for the EEOC to also play a role in the worker misclassification program being spearheaded by DOL and would increase the EEOC’s total full-time staff to about 2,260 by adding additional lawyers, investigators, and mediators.
The NLRB’s requested budget of $301.9 million is a 10.1 percent increase from fiscal year 2021, and it is intended to fortify its workforce after downsizing during the Trump administration. Eighty-one percent of the requested budget is allocated for annual staff compensation, including 108 new field office positions and 13 new Board-side office staff members to maintain adequate staffing among mission support.
While the final budget numbers are not complete until approved by Congress, the Biden administration’s emphasis on greater worker protection, enforcement, and regulatory oversight could not be clearer.
We will continue to monitor budget developments in Washington.