Ratcheting Up Workplace Protections

Louis Brandeis famously wrote, “it is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” But Brandeis also commented, in a famous dissenting opinion concerning competition between states and regulation, that “the race was one not of diligence, but of laxity.” In the current world of workplace regulation, where the federal government has stepped back from the proactive role it played during the Obama Administration, an important question to ask is which of Brandeis’ views characterizes the relationship between federal and state workplace policy today: laboratory of democracy, or race to the bottom? The default assumption is often the latter. States, seeking to increase economic activity within their borders, face strong incentives to reduce regulations. Given that business interests…

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