Today’s News & Commentary — January 16, 2017

With Andrew Puzder’s confirmation hearing on his nomination for Labor Secretary delayed indefinitely, the New York Times outlined some of the criticisms aimed at Puzder by labor groups as well as his own workers.  Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, has been an outspoken critic of workplace regulations, including minimum wage laws.  Employees of CKE Restaurants, which has more than 70,000 workers, have reported that restaurants were understaffed, that employees were required to arrive early or work through breaks without pay, and that CKE placed caps on weekly pay regardless of hours work.  Federal and state agencies have made similar findings of wage violations at CKE.  Regardless, with a Republican-controlled Senate, Puzder’s chances for eventual nomination remain high.

The Wall Street Journal reports on a new study from the McKinsey Global Institute that found while it might not be time for workers to be completely replaced by technology, they will need to begin to work with automation.  The study found that less than 5% of occupations can be fully replaced by technology, but 30% of tasks in approximately 60% of occupations can be automated, and projects that half of today’s occupational tasks may be automated by 2055.

Uncertainty regarding the timing and conditions of Britain’s departure from the European Union has fomented anxieties from employers, some of whom may be prepared to leave Britain.  Even ahead of Brexit, some employers may already be taking action, with 39 of 233 financial services firms reporting that they planned to reduce staffing because of the Brexit vote, with more than half of those already taking steps to do so.  Other employers, such as those in the hospitality, agriculture, and construction sectors, are concerned about facing a shortage of labor, as many of their workers immigrate from Southern and Eastern Europe, and may face curtailment of their employment rights under Brexit’s restrictive plans for immigration.

A recently passed Philadelphia law will prohibit employers within the City from asking job applicants about their wage history and protect those who refuse to answer such inquiries from retaliation.  The law, which resembles Massachusetts’s “Act to Establish Pay Equity,” will go into effect July 2018, reports JD Supra.