Upcoming legislation impacting full-time work

Upcoming legislation impacting full-time work

The 117th Congress has introduced nearly 400 labor and employment bills since first convening on Jan. 3, 2021, ranging from protecting farmworkers from wildfire smoke and excessive heat to establishing fair practices around unionization and everything in between.

As everyone’s favorite singing piece of legislation would say, “But today I am still just a bill.” The vast majority of these 400 bills stand a 2% chance or less of being enacted into law. Still, they serve an essential role in raising awareness of issues impacting the lives of everyday Americans across the country, demanding change, accountability, and spurring conversation.

The most successful labor and employment bills of this Congress are focused on expanding workplace protections for some of the most vulnerable populations, including seniors, pregnant workers, hourly workers, and health care professionals. Efforts to more than double the federal minimum wage and implement a 32-hour workweek seek to bolster a more sustainable work-life balance for Americans across all industries. This audacious list also represents some of the most contentious labor issues across party lines, including vaccine mandates and the balance of power between employers and unions.

Using GovTrack data, Buddy Punch assessed key bills under consideration in the U.S. Congress that would have the most direct impact on full-time work in the United States. Bills that are furthest along in the legislative process are listed first. Bills that might have a direct effect on the public are passing along party lines, which is why we’ve included the “cosponsors” for these bills. Read on to learn more about which bills may soon become law and how they might impact your professional life.

PRO Act activists.

Protecting the right to organize in the workplace

  • Name of bill: H.R. 842 Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021
  • Status: passed House
  • Democratic cosponsors: 210
  • Republican cosponsors: 3

This bill, also known as the PRO Act, expands employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace. It authorizes monetary penalties for employers who violate workers’ rights, bolsters support for workers who have faced retaliation in the form of termination, and broadens the protections for solidarity actions, among other things. One of the bill’s more controversial provisions is the power it gives unionized workplaces to collect dues from all employees, including those not part of the union.


Interim protection for employees from workplace violence

  • Name of bill: H.R. 1195 Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act
  • Status: passed House
  • Democratic cosponsors: 139
  • Republican cosponsors: 6

Violence against health care and social service workers has been rising over the last decade. According to a 2018 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care and social service workers are nearly five times more likely than workers in other sectors to suffer a serious workplace violence injury. These workers are more frequently exposed to people in distress, increasing the risk of violence. In 2018, health care workers accounted for 73% of these types of injuries. This bipartisan bill would ensure that employers in those industries implement protections to prevent workplace violence and remove barriers and the risk of retaliation for reporting incidents.

Senior citizen working.

Combatting age discrimination

  • Name of bill: H.R. 2062 Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act of 2021
  • Status: passed House
  • Democratic cosponsors: 98
  • Republican cosponsors: 14

In the 2009 case of Gross v. FBL Financial Services Inc., the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a legal precedent stating that a plaintiff filing an age discrimination claim need only prove that age was one motivating factor of their employer’s actions. This is also referred to as “mixed-motive.” As a result of the decision, plaintiffs must now prove that age was the sole factor in their employer’s adverse action. The Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act of 2021 seeks, among other things, to restore the pre-2009 “mixed-motive” burden of proof.

U.S. capital building.

Accommodations for employees experiencing pregnancy, childbirth

  • Name of bill: H.R. 1065 / S. 1486 Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
  • Status: ordered reported (Senate)
  • Democratic cosponsors: 5
  • Republican cosponsors: 6

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act establishes that pregnant workers whose ability to perform functions of their job are limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition—such as heavy lifting, prolonged sitting or standing, or exposure to harmful toxic substances—must receive reasonable accommodations if requested, as long as they do not impose an undue burden on their employer. The bill also establishes protection from retaliation for requesting accommodations and the same rights and remediations established under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if an employee’s request is denied.


Preserve individual employee choice to form, join, or assist labor organizations

  • Name of bill: S. 3464 National Right-to-Work Act
  • Bill status: ordered reported (Senate)
  • Democratic cosponsors: 0
  • Republican cosponsors: 20

The National Right-to-Work Act is, to a degree, a Republican response to the Democrat-backed PRO Act. This bill would allow individual employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations or choose to refrain from these activities without penalty. The bill repeals provisions of the National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act, essentially ending forced union dues for all private-sector, airline, and railroad employees, whether they are in a union or not. More than half of the states in the U.S. have enacted laws that prevent employers from making union membership a condition of employment.

Activists with flag.

Freedom from COVID-19 mandates

  • Name of bill: S. 3461 Prohibiting Private Sector Vaccine Mandates Act of 2022
  • Bill status: ordered reported (Senate)
  • Democratic cosponsors: 0
  • Republican cosponsors: 0*

This Republican-backed piece of legislation seeks to block a rule proposed by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to establish a permanent COVID-19 health care standard. This permanent standard would require health care workers to be fully vaccinated, among other infection control protocols. This is one of several similar bills which aim to block vaccination mandates—passed down through executive orders from President Joe Biden—imposed upon private-sector employers. Legislators argue these mandates exceeded executive powers and infringed on states’ rights to regulate public health as they see fit. Conversely, health care and labor unions have expressed support for vaccine mandates.


Adjustments for employer-sponsored retirement plans

  • Name of bill: H.R. 2954 Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2021
  • Bill status: ordered reported (House)
  • Democratic cosponsors: 49
  • Republican cosponsors: 42

In an effort to help people save for retirement, this bill seeks to move to automatically enroll workers in 401(k) and 403(b) savings plans with an opt-out, raise the age at which workers must take required minimum distributions to 75 by 2023, and increase the limit on catch-up contributions. The bill would also allow employers to help workers offset the burden of student loan payments by making equivalent contributions to their savings plan. Student loans are a growing burden for older adults. In 2020, baby boomers, or those nearing the retirement age of 56-74, had an average student loan balance of just over $40,000.

Activists on Valentine's day.

Family and medical leave insurance for all

  • Name of bill: H.R. 804 / S. 248 FAMILY Act
  • Bill status: introduced
  • Democratic cosponsors: 205
  • Republican cosponsors: 0

The FAMILY Act is a proposed national program that entitles every employee, including workers who are part-time, self-employed, contracted, or low-wage earners, to a family and medical leave insurance benefit. Under this program, workers are given 12 weeks of leave, while still receiving two-thirds of their normal pay, when they take time off for a personal serious health condition; to care for a parent, spouse, partner, or child with a serious health condition; the birth or adoption of a child,; or specific military circumstances.

Activists to raise minimum wage.

$15 minimum wage

  • Name of bill: H.R. 603 Raise the Wage Act of 2021
  • Bill status: introduced
  • Democratic cosponsors: 201
  • Republican cosponsors: 0

This bill seeks to gradually increase the federal minimum wage from its current hourly rate of $7.25 to $15 by 2025. It also establishes that future increases in federal minimum wage will be adjusted based on growth in the median wage, ensuring wages do not stagnate and remain livable. In addition to regular employees, tipped employees and newly hired employees under the age of 20 would all see wage increases. If enacted, this would result in increased wages for nearly 32 million workers in America. California is currently the only state with a statewide minimum wage rate of $15.

Capitol close up.

A 32-hour workweek

  • Name of bill: H.R. 4728 Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act
  • Bill status: introduced
  • Democratic cosponsors: 17
  • Republican cosponsors: 0

The Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act would reduce the federal definition of the standard workweek from 40 hours per week, established in 1940, to 32 hours per week. Although a 32-hour workweek would not be mandated, employees who work past that threshold would be entitled to overtime pay at the 33rd hour. This proposed shift, catalyzed by the pandemic-driven workplace norms of the last two years, reflects the current priorities of American workers and aims to improve their overall quality of life and maximize productivity. Groups in other countries including Iceland have seen early success with a four-day or 32-hour workweek.

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