How Biden’s Labor Department Pick Could Affect Construction Law in New York
Amidst many changes in the transition from a Trump to Biden presidency, one that stands out in particular is the nomination of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as labor secretary. Mayor Walsh, a former leader of the Boston Building and Construction Trades Council and former head of the Laborer’s Union, boasts widespread union support and mirrors Biden’s agenda for a worker-friendly labor department. This nomination could have widespread impact on current construction law standards for New York builders.
One possible change is a reworking of certain OSHA regulations and other standards. With Biden’s administration promising to quickly control and squash remnants of Coronavirus, Walsh could potentially expand infectious disease standards, requiring ICRA-type infection risk assessment and control plans beyond construction at health care facilities, medical vaccination, and medical removal protection paid to employees. It will be crucial for stakeholders to have clear, concise legal contracts in regards to infectious disease emergencies to continue construction operations.
Another consideration is the increased need for force majeure provisions, either written into an existing contract or as a freestanding provision. As governmental forces move in to control the pandemic, construction projects in New York face the potential for mandatory reduced workforce, delayed construction, or the prospect of another round of closure of non-essential construction work. Stakeholders must have clear and practical guidance in place around potential rework, project time delays, and poor performance, so no affected parties are caught by surprise.
Lastly, the Department of Labor’s new rule for determining independent contractors, set to go into effect March 2021, might be rescinded by the new administration. The rule decides worker classification on an “economic reality test” focused primarily on whether a worker is economically dependent on an employer, making it easier to classify a worker as an independent contractor. As independent contractors are not given the same benefits as employees, Walsh could take steps to expand protections to independent contractors for minimum wage, unemployment benefits, and overtime pay.
Regardless of the shifting tides in government and the legal changes at hand, Bleakley, Platt & Schmidt remains committed to protecting our construction clients during any phase, from development to execution. We are well-versed in local, state, and federal legislation. Our team is highly skilled in drafting and negotiating contracts, resolving payment disputes, prosecuting and defending damage claims, and any other hurdles you might face. To learn more about our capabilities and the way we can protect you, click here.
If you are seeking legal counsel or help with a litigation or other claim, call our Construction Law Practice Group at 914-287-6165.