Earn Careers

4 Laws We Need to Protect Workers in 2023 and Beyond

Chelsey Zhu  |  February 9, 2023

Succeeding in your career takes more than hard work. It takes policy — here are the laws you should pay attention to.

Employees have gained an enormous amount of power since COVID-19 upended our work lives three years ago. Major shifts in the job market — including a wave of early retirement and a drop in immigration — have led to a labor shortage that seems like it’s here to stay, even in the face of layoffs and a potential recession. Right now, there are still about two job openings for every person looking for a job. Many of us have taken this opportunity to set boundaries on our time in the office, negotiate for remote work, and leave unfulfilling jobs for better-paying positions a la the Great Resignation. 

But it will take more than individual effort to create lasting change in the workplace, according to Helaine Olen, an opinion columnist for the Washington Post who covers labor issues. Ultimately, the fair treatment of workers is “more a political problem than a personal problem,” she says. 

Olen sat down with us on the HerMoney Podcast to talk about all the progress that workers have made since the pandemic, and how we can keep the momentum going by passing laws that protect us for decades to come. 

SUBSCRIBE: The HerMoney newsletters can help you keep up with the economy through your email inbox — and it’s free!


More than 30 million workers — 18% of the workforce — are required to sign noncompete clauses before starting a job. If you’ve never signed one, a noncompete usually restricts an employee from working for their company’s competitors or in a specific industry for a certain amount of time after leaving their current job. They’re intended to protect companies’ trade secrets, but in reality, they harm workers by making it harder for them to change jobs and achieve higher salaries. Research also shows that gender and racial wage gaps widen under noncompetes

“The ability to move jobs is central to the buildup of an industry,” says Olen. “It’s also central to people’s ability to actually earn more money, versus being locked out.” 

The Federal Trade Commission has proposed a new rule that would ban companies from using noncompetes. The Commission estimates that Americans could earn $300 billion more every year if the law passes. 

There’s still a long way to go before the rule goes into effect, but you can show your support by submitting a public comment by March 20. 


America is still one of the only developed countries in the world that don’t have federal paid parental leave or any national PTO policy. The lack of support hurt women the most during the pandemic — many were pushed out of the workforce to care for their kids as schools closed. 

“We more or less just expected women to somehow go home, manage their kids and manage their jobs, and this was going to be okay,” says Olen. “There was this sort of old-fashioned expectation that women would just somehow do it all. And that’s why the women’s workforce participation rate fell fairly dramatically during the heart of the pandemic — because women can’t do it all.”

As we come out of the pandemic, it’s clearer than ever that our country needs to value women (and men!) more by paying them for caregiving. A federal paid leave policy would not only help parents, but also keep more people in the workforce and help close the gender wage gap


Years ago, it was taboo to ask about other people’s salaries. But all that secrecy usually only benefited companies — and disadvantaged women who didn’t realize they were being underpaid. Now younger generations are leading the way to greater pay transparency: One study found that 89% of Gen Z workers are comfortable talking about pay at work. 

“The ability to organize and the ability to share information with your coworkers is a form of power,” says Olen. 

States like Colorado, California, and Rhode Island have all passed laws in the past year that require companies to share pay ranges for open positions, either in job listings or upon request. Although there isn’t a national law on the horizon, Olen predicts that the benefits of salary transparency will spill over from states that have these laws to everywhere else.

“Corporations span states,” she says. “You’re not going to get away with posting jobs and not listing these numbers in one state where there isn’t a law, versus a state where there is a law.”


Even though many of us have been WFH or hybrid for three years or more, there aren’t clear, national laws that protect remote workers’ rights. In most places in the U.S., nothing is stopping your boss from blasting your inbox with emails at midnight expecting a response, or installing monitoring software on your work laptop to track how often you’re typing on your keyboard

A few states like New York and Delaware have passed laws that require companies to disclose their monitoring software to employees. A group of senators also recently introduced the Stop Spying Bosses Act, which would add more restrictions on surveillance, like forbidding companies from collecting data in a way that prevents workers from organizing. 

A national law is the most important step for stopping employer overreach. But in the meanwhile, if your boss is keeping tabs on you, remember that we’re still in a very tight job market. You can walk away from a company that’s taking advantage of you. 

If you want to hear more of Helaine Olen’s insights into the labor market, you can listen to her episode of the podcast here.


SUBSCRIBE: The HerMoney newsletters can help you keep up with the economy through your email inbox — and it’s free!

Editor’s note: We maintain a strict editorial policy and a judgment-free zone for our community, and we also strive to remain transparent in everything we do. Posts may contain references and links to products from our partners. Learn more about how we make money.

Next Article: