Connecticut Employment Law Blog Insight on Labor & Employment Developments for Connecticut Businesses

Employment Lawyer Predicts the Future. What Happens Next Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.

Posted in Highlight, Human Resources (HR) Compliance, Labor Law & NLRB, Laws and Regulations, Legislative Developments, Social Media

If you spend anytime on the Internet, you’ve come across headlines like this one. (Yes, it’s a little bait-and-switch, but you were expecting that, weren’t you?).

Indeed, sites like Upworthy have become big business in the last year all due to headlines that you can’t resist.

Well, that and Grumpy Cats.

(For an excellent recap of how we’ve all created a viral content monster, check out this post as well. No really.)

These headlines are the modern-day equivalent of the toddler who screams for attention. With the number of employment law blogs and social media channels that have proliferated out there, every new case is treated (by some, not all) as the MOST IMPORTANT CASE EVER filed by or decided by (choose one: NLRB, other federal agency, federal appeals court, state court, etc.)

But looking back over 2013 and looking forward to 2014, it feels that we’ve been in a period of incremental changes — not revolutionary ones.  And thus, the headlines seem unwarranted.

Yes, social media has been this new OMG thing in the workplace. But, it’s been around now for 5+ years.  In fact, last January, I joked that I was writing my “last” post about social media.

While that prediction was doomed to fail (as I also predicted), the law of social media in the workplace is looking a lot more predictable than most experts would care to admit.

Take the notion that a Facebook “like” could be protected speech.  Under the facts of a case that was decided last fall, the court’s decision that a “like” of a political candidate’s page might be protected free speech doesn’t seem so foreign.  The court said it was the modern day equivalent to a political lawn sign.   That seems about right.

And if an employee is on Facebook for four hours a day? Discipline them. Just like you would for an employee who took a 4 hour lunch break.  Again, not so revolutionary.

And then think about federal legislation.  Hard pressed to think of ANY that have passed in the last 3 years? That’s because there essentially hasn’t been any federal employment laws that have passed since we’ve had a gridlocked Congress.  Sure, bills get filed but they basically have zero shot at passing Congress.

Now, that’s not to say Connecticut is entirely quiet; the minimum wage increased on Wednesday, for example.  And we had changes to the state’s personnel files law too.  But an attempt to modify the state’s non-compete laws was vetoed by the Governor and even a privacy bill for social media passwords went nowhere.  And Connecticut court decisions on employment law tended to be yawn-worthy as well.

And while the NLRB is still trying to expand its reach (see the latest ALJ decision ruling that a company’s “no gossip” policy violated federal labor laws), courts seem to be reigning the board back in.

Before the holidays I gave a recap to BloombergBNA regarding some of the developments, but again, it was hard to get too excited about what has transpired.

Will 2014 be different? Perhaps.  I can’t predict the future anymore than you can. (If you want to see how my predictions for 2013 turned out, check them out here.)

But the lesson I would draw from the last year is to read more than just headlines.  Employers in Connecticut have enough to worry about, but it’s hard to see that any one bill or decision will “restore your faith in humanity” or “shock you to your core”.

And so we are left with this headline: Employment Lawyer Recaps 2013 and Predicts 2014.  Yawns Slightly. 

Happy New Year.