2024 Labor and Employment Outlook for Manufacturers


The following article first appeared on Robinson+Cole’s Manufacturing Law Blog. It is reposted here with permission.

As we look ahead to 2024, there are a number of new issues and trends that appear on the local, state, and federal horizon with regard to labor and employment laws that may impact manufacturers.

The following are a few of those issues and trends.

Expanded Anti-Discrimination Protections

This past year, numerous states and localities amended their discrimination laws to include new protected statuses, including hairstyle or texture, off-duty cannabis use, citizenship, immigration status, and others.

We expect that this trend will continue in the new year.

Likewise, as the federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act into effect this year, expanding the protections for pregnant employees and the manner in which accommodations associated with pregnancy are generally viewed, we may see states and localities passing similar protections and a change to the approach that employers use in addressing such needs.

Manufacturers should review their handbooks to ensure that their anti-discrimination policies comply with federal law and the laws of the relevant states and localities where employees are working.

Growth in Restrictions of Noncompetes

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission initially proposed a complete ban on the use of noncompete agreements; however, it has indicated that it plans to vote on a final version of this proposed rule in April 2024.

Similarly, there has been a significant uptick in recent years in the number of states that restrict non-compete agreements and provisions by statute, including based on non-exempt status, position, and salary, among others, which will likely continue. 

EEO-1 Reporting Changes

Manufacturers who are required to file EEO-1 reports annually may see changes to this form and the manner in which certain characteristics are reported.

Specifically, in 2024, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is expected to revise the reporting process, including amending the gender reporting categories so that employees have an opportunity to self-identify as non-binary voluntarily.

The EEOC may also make changes to the race/ethnicity reporting to include individuals from origins in Middle Eastern countries who have historically reported as White.

Manufacturers should keep an eye out for this change and modify voluntary disclosure forms and any internal data-tracking procedures as necessary.

Creative Approaches to Retention

In 2023, manufacturers were generally challenged regarding recruitment and retention in a post-pandemic environment that included labor shortages and mismatches of skills, among other issues.

These issues may continue in 2024 due to economic uncertainty and may create opportunities for manufacturers to develop creative ways to retain employees, distinguish themselves in the job market, and renew efforts to retain employees.

For example, manufacturers may introduce new and more flexible benefits and time off, create individual incentives, implement exit interviews, and focus on culture and morale, among other action items.

Increased State Paid Leave Benefits

Many states and localities have introduced paid leave laws and ordinances in recent years, and that trend will continue into 2024.

Several states and one county also mandate paid vacation time for employees (including, most recently, Illinois).

Manufacturers, especially multi-state employers, may need to review their policies to ensure they are compliant in all of the states and localities where they employ workers.  

Technology Developments

Workplace injuries and, consequently, workers’ compensation claims, have increased in recent years.

Although sometimes new technology in the workplace can contribute to these injuries, as of recently, it can also help prevent it by enhancing occupational safety.

This year, manufacturers have started to turn to artificial intelligence and other analytic tools for assistance in mitigating incidents of workplace violence, and we expect this to increase in 2024.

Of course, manufacturers should remain cautious in relying on AI for certain internal processes, such as screening and hiring, to prevent unlawful discrimination.

Government contractors, in particular, should ensure their processes, which may involve AI, are lawful, as the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs recently expressed concerns about using AI for this purpose.

New Labor Laws

The Biden administration has kept its promise of expanding employee rights to engage in union-organizing activity and made several changes to the law in this regard.

Many of these changes will take effect in early 2024, including the new rule expanding what employers qualify as a joint employer under the National Labor Relations Act.

We can expect to see additional pro-labor changes in 2024, including restrictions on mandatory captive audience meetings.

Whether unionized or union-free, manufacturers may be impacted by the NLRA and should remain informed with regard to changes in this area.

About the author: Abby Warren is a partner at Robinson+Cole and a member of the firm’s Labor, Employment, Benefits + Immigration Group.


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