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New Year's Regulations: What Businesses Can Expect From President Obama's Agencies In 2013

Businesses have seen their regulatory obligations expand dramatically over the last four years and, unfortunately, the next four years will likely bring more of the same.

President Obama begins his second term with an aggressive agenda; however, because he lacks majority support in Congress, he will need to use his administrative agencies to accomplish many of his key goals.  This means that businesses can expect new and expanded rules, guidelines, and regulations from federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Department of Labor, and the Securities and Exchange Commission.  To help prepare for these challenges, employers should consider the issues set forth below and, to obtain further guidance, attend Bingham Greenebaum Doll’s 2013 Regulatory Update on Feb. 21, 2013.


Even though the “ObamaCare” individual mandate will not become law until 2014, several key aspects of the law will become effective this upcoming year.  For example, in 2013 states will decide whether or not to run their own health insurance exchanges, which could significantly impact how the individual mandate affects businesses.  Additionally, state and federal governments will begin enforcing some lesser-known aspects of ObamaCare, such as the rule requiring employers to provide breaks to nursing mothers.  Businesses should apprise themselves of several new ObamaCare-related taxes, such as the increased payroll tax for Medicare Part A. It also would be prudent for businesses to monitor the last-ditch effort that several groups are currently pursuing to overturn ObamaCare in federal court.  Although the law’s opponents are facing an uphill battle, if they succeed they could dramatically alter businesses’ obligations. 

Labor and Employment

Most expect the NLRB to continue expanding its reach in 2013. The NLRB likely will continue working to help non-union employees engage in “protected concerted activities,” or, in other words, join together to attempt to improve their working conditions. In doing so, the NLRB will be strictly scrutinizing employee handbooks, including social media policies, at-will employment policies, and other policies addressing workplace conduct. The NLRB also will continue pressing rules that could help unions organize, including its “quickie election” rules and rules apprising employees of their labor rights. It will be particularly important for non-union employers to understand these rules, because unions will attempt to utilize them to help organize at new locations.

Two other employment-related federal agencies also will have broad agendas in 2013.  The EEOC, which monitors civil rights laws, and the DOL, which monitors laws concerning wages and other employment issues, will continue targeting employers through investigations and enforcement actions.  In particular, the EEOC plans to expand its investigations of “pattern and practice” cases, which can affect an employer’s entire business, and the DOL will continue focusing on issues such as overtime calculation, misclassification of exempt employees, and prevailing wage compliance.


The Obama Administration’s environmental agenda also could impact businesses in several respects.  The EPA will continue working to limit carbon emissions, thus making business more difficult for those who produce or heavily utilize fossil fuels.  Businesses can also expect the Obama Administration to continue incentivizing certain “green” practices; thus, taking the time to understand these incentives could lead to significant savings when capital expenditures fall within the “green” incentives.  Businesses should continue to monitor the Administration’s environmental agenda, as it likely will take actions that impact businesses in certain industries, particularly those engaged in manufacturing and transportation.  With the unexpected resignation of Lisa Jackson as the EPA Administrator at the end of 2012, an additional level of uncertainty surrounds the agenda for the next four years.  A likely bruising confirmation hearing for the next Administrator will be the first preview of the next four years of the Obama environmental agenda.

Again, for a comprehensive review of the new and expanded regulatory obligations that your business may face in 2013, please join us for our “2013 Regulatory Update” seminar. Please note that seating will be limited.



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