Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a bipartisan legislation to remove barriers to employment for skilled workers who possess a criminal record. Under the new law, professional boards and commissions can no longer deny a person an occupational license because of their criminal record unless their criminal history is related to that profession. Wolf states that “the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of economic challenges that have put a lot of Pennsylvanians out of work. While many of these Pennsylvanians are going to be rehired in their current job or their current industry, there are a whole lot of others who are going to be looking for new jobs, new careers.” By removing outdated obstacles for a modern workforce, he hopes that Pennsylvanians will be able to get back to work. In Pennsylvania, more than 100 professions, including real estate agents, barbers, and nurses, require licenses to practice. This new law should also help to reduce recidivism for those who leave state prisons.

While the economy is still slowly recovering from the effects of COVID-19, the ADP National Employment Report for June showed that employment in the private sector increased by 2,369,000 jobs from May to June. Of those, 961,000 jobs were in the leisure and hospitality sector. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees also saw a growth of 937,000 new jobs. The vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute, Ahu Yildirmaz, stated that 70% of jobs added in June were in the leisure and hospitality and trade and construction industries. However, this growth is still smaller than expected after a huge increase in May due to states reopening and easing restrictions. Further, a resurgence in the coronavirus could lead to another economic downfall as states slow or halt reopening efforts in light of a new cases of infection. 

Brandeis professor, Jonathan Touboul, and his colleagues have used artificial intelligence to analyze court decisions in Canadian labor law cases to predict the amount of termination pay a laid-off employee could expect to get if she took her employer to court. In response to the nearly two million Canadians out of work due to COVID-19, Touboul wanted to develop a series of algorithms to help those unemployed gain free legal consultation and see how much severance pay they are likely to get. The employee enters into the database what are called the “Bardal factors” of severance pay: their age, duration of employment, managerial positions, experience and qualifications, and ease in finding a similar job elsewhere. Using artificial intelligence to scan the data for patterns, Touboul and his associates reported that they were able to roughly predict the amount of termination pay an employee would win in a lawsuit against the employer. The site is called MyOpenCourt and is completely free to users.

On Monday, the Labor Department proposed a new rule for retirement accounts that would allow brokers and other financial advisors to give fiduciary advice and even receive commissions in certain cases. This new regulation will allow for investment advisors who serve as fiduciaries to investors in retirement funds such as 401(k) plans and IRAs to earn commissions on those accounts. While such compensation is normally prohibited under the Internal Revenue Code and the Employee Retirement Security Act of 1974, the proposed regulation will exempt advisors from such laws. The exemption also mandates advisors to keep compensation reasonable and refrain from making misleading statements. While Labor Department Secretary, Eugene Scalia, says the new rule will give Americans more choices for investing while also protecting their retirement accounts, some consumer advocates critique the proposal as putting the interest of investors above the protection of retirement savers. There will be a 30-day comment period before the rule is finalized, and another 60 days after it is published before it becomes effective. 

According to Axios, Caterpillar, a U.S. clothing brand based in Peoria, Illinois, has been sourcing its clothing from a coercive labor program called, “Xinjiang Aid.” Caterpillar received multiple shipments of jackets and trousers from Xinjiang Ainouxin Garment Co. and Jinan Ainuoxin Garment Co. from August 2019 – June 2020, according to data from the Worker Rights Consortium. Those are two factories that participate in a Chinese labor transfer scheme that has been labelled by human rights groups as coerced labor. The factories are also part of an assimilation campaign that targets the Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic minority in China. Chinese media showcases the labor programs as alleviating poverty for the Uighurs, but human rights researchers have reported that in reality, the program is not designed for the benefit of the Uighurs, but rather to gain total surveillance and internment of the minority group. While Caterpillar has publicly denounced forced and child labor, it currently does not use an independent third party to verify its supplier sites. It instead asks the suppliers to conduct self-assessments.