After Election Day: What's Ahead for HR

With the shocking results of the presidential election now recorded in the history books, experts ponder how a Trump presidency will affect organizations' HR policies and regulations.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016
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The raucous and bruising presidential campaign of 2016 is finally over. Defying the polls, voters on Tuesday chose Donald Trump to succeed Barack Obama in the White House.

Now HR leaders must prepare for new policies and regulations that remain nearly as unpredictable today as they were during the drama-filled months leading up to Election Day.

Both candidates made a lot of promises, usually without saying how or when they would deliver them. Trump was particularly sparing with details about his plans. But in recent months on the campaign trail, he at least has signaled his top priorities for the first months of his term.

Key among them are initiatives that directly affect employers, including sweeping changes in immigration and healthcare policy.

"All indications are that President-elect Donald Trump in his first 100 days will move forward with repeal of the Affordable Care Act, efforts to secure the border and a focus on immigration worksite enforcement by enacting a mandatory E-Verify system," says Michael Aitken, vice president of government affairs at the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va.

"A Trump administration also will try to repeal several of President Obama's executive orders, as well as review several of his regulatory efforts, including ones impacting the workplace." says that many of Trump's HR-related initiatives, including those involving immigration and healthcare, "will require bipartisan congressional support to get enacted into law." That may be challenging, since Republicans apparently held on to only 51 seats in the Senate, too slim a majority to prevent Democratic filibusters.

Much also will depend on whom Trump appoints to head important agencies such as the Department of Labor, notes Dan Yager, CEO of the Washington-based HR Policy Association. For business, "that is where the relationships are" with a new administration, he says. "I think there's a hope that it would be a more business-friendly administration, that there would be a willingness to take a look at the disconnect between policies and reality, to take immediate action on repealing or revising some of the more controversial policies of the previous administration."

Regulations that likely will be scrapped or revamped include the recent Labor Department rule that lifts the pay threshold for overtime and its controversial "persuader" rule, which requires employers to disclose when they hire consultants to help them battle or bargain with unions.

"I think all of those are in play," Yager says. But he notes that revising the rules doesn't happen quickly under any circumstance. "People have to realize once a rule has been promulgated, to revise it you have to go through the whole process all over again," Yager says.

Trump's positions on trade and immigration could mean dramatic policy changes affecting HR, says Rebecca Peters, director of government affairs for the Council for Global Immigration, an affiliate of SHRM.

The incoming president has promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, tighten immigration controls and apply "extreme vetting" to visitors from terror-prone regions of the world. All could have profound business effects, Peters says.

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Among the issues her organization will be tracking is how the government handles the so-called TN classification, a NAFTA-related program that allows certain professionals from Canada and Mexico into the country for work.

As for Trump's proposal to limit visitors from certain regions, "We would definitely want to track how that might impact business travelers, in particular executives and managers coming to work in America," Peters says. "This could really be a ban on immigrants from countries hit by terrorism," which could include Japan, Israel, India, and even Germany and the United Kingdom.

Healthcare is another area where a Trump administration plans policy changes that could have dramatic effects on employers. Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health in Washington, says his organization looks forward to the Trump administration "strengthening employer-sponsored health coverage for the millions of Americans who rely on it" and eliminating the "Cadillac tax" provision of the Affordable Care Act. 

Other initiatives that could have had substantial effects on employers under Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton now are less likely, notes Steve Wojcik, vice president for public policy at the NBGH. For example: "It is unlikely that Congress will have paid sick leave and other labor policy issues on its agenda."

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