- President Donald Trump signed into law the $1.3 trillion, 2,000-plus-page omnibus spending bill last week. Lawmakers pushed the legislation through last week to prevent another government shutdown. The law addresses, among other topics, labor issues such as H-2B visas, tipping and overtime and minimum-wage requirements for minor league baseball players.
- One provision allows the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to raise the number of H-2B visas for temporary, nonfarm foreign workers from the annual 66,000 cap to 129,547 (Pg. 1,760).
- The bill also contains two Fair Labor Standards Act amendments. The first forbids employers from pocketing workers' tips in tip pooling arrangements; that move addresses a concern many raised as DOL attempts to rescind Obama-era tip pooling regulations (Pg. 2,025). The bill also exempts minor league baseball payers from the law's minimum wage and overtime requirements (Pg. 1,967).
The bill provides clarity to employers on certain hot-button issues, as well as a serious win regarding the hiring of immigrant workers.
A potential increase in the number of H-2B visas available is welcome news to employers who depend on seasonal workers from abroad for jobs in landscaping, restaurants, hotels, ski resorts and the like. Visa applications for temporary workers for the 2018 spring and summer months already met the cap in December 2017; three times as many applications came through this past January than a year ago. Given the increasing volume of applications each year, the new provision is welcome news for many employers.
The tip pooling provision addresses employee groups' concern that employers would pocket tips if the government allowed tip-sharing arrangements that included non-tipped workers. With that concern addressed, it's possible that DOL may be able to move forward with its plan to rescind Obama-era rules that placed strict limits on tip pools.
Finally, the exemption for minor league baseball players appears to come in response to recent litigation around their exempt status. The players, whose pay can sometimes dip as low as $4 per hour according to CNN Money, have filed lawsuits in recent years seeking minimum wage and overtime pay. The bill appears to put an end to that question moving forward.