Update: As noted below, the redesigned blog should be up at some point Tuesday, perhaps late – a new post will follow thereafter.  If it’s Tuesday and you’re seeing this blog post and the old design first, it’s coming later in the day. Promise.  

Every good superhero story needs an origin story.  I’m not a superhero but I’ve got a super origin story to tell.

Not a Daredevil

You may have heard it before, but humor me. I’m turning 10.

You see it was ten years ago, in a hotel conference room in where my life changed.

Of course, like lots of such “a-ha” moments that people have, I didn’t realize it at the time.

(Pause here to acknowledge that there are plenty of moments you know are going to be big: kids, marriages, your first iPhone).

I was at the Spring Conference for the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division in, of all places, Canada.  Montreal, to be specific.

But I woke up early, on a few hours sleep, to hear from this guy, Kevin O’Keefe, who had this company called “LexBlog”.

He talked about how lawyers could set up a law blog. Sounded interesting.

At the time, I kinda thought I was late to the party.  But I had long since wanted to do some type of writing – a remnant from my days as an editor on my college newspaper.

If you had asked me, I probably would’ve said that I just wanted to have my own New York Times op-ed piece.

(Pause here for having to explain to my kids how we used to read The New York Times in paper form etc.)

And so, over the summer months of 2007, I worked with Kevin’s company to design a blog.

What should it be called? Well, lawyers should have a geographic area and a practice area, I heard Kevin say to me.

What do you think about “Connecticut Employment Law Blog”, I asked? Sure, that sounds specific enough.

(Pause here to reflect on names I could’ve used, like “Dan’s Uber Employment Law Blog” or “Snapchatting About Employment Law”.)

And then in September 2007 — ten years ago this month — I was ready to launch.  You can see my first “Welcome” post here.

For the first few years, I used to joke that the blog didn’t make me a better lawyer — only “Google” search results suggested I was by moving this blog to the top of the charts.

(Pause here to say my best party trick is telling people to Google “Connecticut Employment Law”. There’s now something called “EmploymentLawHandbook” that pretends to be number 1 sometimes– someone tell Google.)

But after 10 years, I’m not quite sure that’s accurate anymore. I’ve come to conclude that the blog has improved my life in immeasurable ways, which is why it’s so valuable as a “origin” story.

Here are three things I think about:

  1. I’ve met amazing people through the blog. Readers, fellow lawyer bloggers, special clients, technology people, reporters, and more.  Perhaps I would’ve met a few of them somehow, but the blog has expanded my own horizons. And in turn, I’ve learned a lot more than I ever would’ve though about employment law, the state of the legal profession, and myself.
  2. Writing nearly every day helps shape your own writer’s voice.  You start to hear yourself when you write and, like riding a bike, it just gets easier the more you do it.  That, in turn, has helped my legal writing as well.  I’ve become less afraid to experiment more with my legal writing. To write shorter sentences. To speak directly to the reader. To be direct.
  3. Rather than be “late” to the party, I’ve come to realize that I was early. In fact, when Twitter and Facebook took off, I wasn’t nearly as afraid to use them for professional and personal purposes.  Instead, I realized that they were opportunities to expand my network and learn more from others.

The last time this blog was redesigned was back in 2011.  That is the look you still see today, Monday.

But with some luck and a lot of perseverance (as well as continued help from Lexblog — which has become a partner to me), this blog gets relaunched tomorrow.

What will that look like? What will happen? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I look at where this blog goes forward.

Day One of the new Connecticut Employment Law Blog begins tomorrow. (Probably late in the day, tomorrow if you’re really paying attention.)

DSC_0128Hard to believe, but this week marks the ninth anniversary of the Connecticut Employment Law Blog.

I’m pretty sure that’s 72 years old in “blog” years.  Or dog years. I forget which one.

Coincidentally, this week I stumbled across an old information sheet I filled out for LexBlog (my blog hosting company) in the summer of 2007 with my goals and vision for the blog.  I was asked to write about the “subject and purpose of the blog”.

Here’s what I wrote:

This blog will focus on new and noteworthy developments in the labor & employment law field in Connecticut.  While, at times, it may comment on national employment law topics that may be of interest to Connecticut audience, it will address employment law topics that may be of interest for employers in Connecticut.

The purpose of the blog is educate and inform individuals in the state, while providing a platform for  a discussion of new and noteworthy cases, decisions or statutes.  It will address federal and Connecticut laws, and will highlight decisions that discuss certain areas.

It will address wage & hour decisions, at-will employment employment, discrimination and harassment, and labor relations. While not providing specific advice, it may provide general commentary to employers on topics of interest, particularly to in-house employment lawyers, labor relations professionals and human resources personnel.

I have to say — nine years (and many hundreds of blog posts) later and I think this holds up very well! Nice to know I’ve remained true to my original vision.

Of course, in the interests of full disclosure and just in case you think I was doing this purely for unselfish reasons, I indicated that a “secondary” purpose of the blog was “to increase my exposure and profile in Connecticut.”

I’m very comfortable in acknowledging that has happened too.  (Thanks Google search!)

In the last week, I’ve gotten multiple e-mails from respected attorneys in the state (on both sides of litigation) thanking me for continuing to write. I love those e-mails.

Of course, I’ve also received such e-mails in the last week that said “Useful analysis! For my two cents , people are wanting a AZ CRF2M1 , my colleagues saw a blank form here!” And this classic e-mail, “firsttly thanks to all valuable information great post.nice post dfftheevege ssasup, opsappsmo”.

Ah, spam e-mail — don’t ever change.

And so, this post ultimately is nothing more than a sincere thank you post.

Thank you for continuing to read. Thank you for continuing to encourage me to write.

And a big thank you to my current law firm, Shipman & Goodwin, for being so supportive. And a thank you to my former colleagues who put up with my blogging when it was still this big unknown.

Finally, a thanks to my wife who has politely managed my endless droning on about the blog with a “uh-huh” more times than I can count.

Let’s say we continue on to a big ten year celebration next year and see where we go from there?

(If you really want to see something scary, check out this interview with Lexblog from December 2007 too.)

Have you hit the target with your apologies?
Have you hit the target with your apologies?

The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur is quickly approaching.  While most people know that Jews are supposed to fast on that holiday (and ask G-d for forgiveness for their sins), one of the other traditions of the holiday is that Jews are supposed to apologize to all those we have wronged in the previous year.

I must confess I hadn’t thought about that much until I listened to a great podcast recently from Unorthodox, which brought in the publisher of “SorryWatch”, a blog about the art of the apology, to talk about saying you’re sorry.

(And another confession: Sure, I have this blog on employment law in Connecticut — talk about niche! — but the brillance of a blog devoted to apologies is divine! Seriously, it is just an awesome read.  They have lots of posts on why an apology is meaningful.)

The podcast was a terrific listen for those who are, and are not, Jewish.

It got me to thinking about the art of the apology in the workplace.  Now, I’m not the first one to write about this on an employment law blog. My friend, Molly DiBianca from the Delaware Employment Law Blog, touched it with her three rules for work apologies: Own It. Don’t Overdo It. And Offer a Solution.

The Harvard Business Review has its own advice on the work apology.

[L]eaders should not apologize often or lightly. For a leader to express contrition, there needs to be a good, strong reason.

But in the right way, an apology can help resolve workplace disputes as this post from the JAMS ADR Blog details. Indeed, in mediation, there are ways to use a mediator to get to an apology as well:

Formal face-to-face expressions of regret and responsibility,
while potentially powerful, are rare. By the time the parties
explore settlement, the animosity generated by their litigation
makes it difficult to express anything directly other than
hostility.

Communication through a neutral is easier. Messages
can be passed to the other side, such as an employer’s
regret that an employee’s skills were not better utilized, a
manager’s admission of ineffective coaching or a supervisor’s
acknowledged failure to appreciate the workplace hostility
experienced by an employee. Acknowledgement of shared
responsibility for the failure of the employment relationship,
coupled with empathy for the hardship caused by the
termination, can convey the employer’s respect for the
terminated employee. Once the employee feels respected
and validated, his or her focus can shift from challenging the
employer’s decision to moving on.

Reference letters can substitute for apologies. Positive,
factual statements about the employee (excerpted from past
performance reviews or deposition testimony) communicate
respect and confirm the value of the employee’s contributions.

But I liked the advice given in the podcast. The five-step approach to the apology.

  1. Say you’re sorry.
  2. Say the thing you are sorry for. (As an aside, this is notoriously hard for my kids.)
  3. Say you understand the import of what you did.
  4. Make amends.
  5. Figure out what steps to take so it doesn’t happen again.

It’s not a perfect list, but it’s a pretty good step to start.  Workplaces aren’t always about being right; sometimes, it’s saying you’re sorry for the little things, to avoid bigger things down the road.

Can it really be seven years since my first blog post?

But as I look back on my “Welcome” post (which may or may not have been posted on September 12, 2007, though I was writing before them), there IS proof that I started this little blog seven years ago.

The Welcome post was full of lofty ideas, some of which have lasted, and some of which sounded better in theory than practice.  But I think I’ve been true to my original intent which was to focus on “on new and noteworthy developments in the employment law arena, particularly as they may impact those in Connecticut.”

What I didn’t forsee in that original post is that the blog would grow and become among the most widely read law blogs in the country.  And an ABA Journal “Blawg Hall of Fame” recipient!  Who would’ve thought?

So, to all the readers and all of my colleagues at my law firms who have supported this blog, I say a sincere thanks.

What’s next for the blog?

Well, I think over the next six months, you’ll start to see some significant changes. I’m in the early stages of another redesign, for example.  And, with all the changes in social media over the last seven years, I am looking at how this blog can best fit in.

You may have noticed more “guest” bloggers as well. I suspect those “guests” will become regulars as we look to provide you with the very latest in employment law in Connecticut.

Your suggestions and comments are always appreciated.

Now, let’s go work on another year together, shall we?

Five years is a long time.

In the time span of the Internet, it might as well be a lifetime.

And Justice For All

So, after five years of doing this blog on nearly a daily (ok, business daily) basis, it’s time for a change.

Now, I’m not retiring like other bloggers have.  But it’s time to recognize that the world of reporting on employment law has changed so much since I started the blog in September 2007.  

Back when I started, there were a handful of us.  Now, there are dozens of employment law blogs chasing the same nugget of news; a few are great, some are good, and many others are just chasing Google’s SEO approval.

Five years ago, the news competition was a printed Daily Labor Report by BNA and, well, not much else.  A lawyer who blogged could often be the first to report on a case simply because there was no one else out there.

Even then, given the slowness of the news cycle, there was time for a bit of analysis.  Twitter wasn’t heavily used and Facebook was still mainly for college kids. (I didn’t even reference social networking’s impact on employment law until 2008.)

Now, Twitter demands an immediate post on what is happening THIS MINUTE.  And Facebook has turned into key part of people’s lives.  And don’t get me started on the rapid rise in the use of smartphones. 

(For more on this phenomenon, see this article in The New York Times).

I was reminded of this last fall when I was on vacation and the Connecticut Supreme Court came out with a decision on how many Connecticut-based employees a company needed to have before being covered by Connecticut’s FMLA.

I got an e-mail from a friend and lawyer letting me know about this and hoping I would blog about it.  And there I was, feeling compelled to update the blog about it — while waiting on line at Disney World, using my smart phone.

A lawyer practicing at a (great, if I may say so) mid-size Connecticut-based law firm is not a news reporter.  We have clients to care for, for one reason. 

And family is another reason. One of my loyal readers — my mother-in-law — has been ill of late and life requires some changes to meet her (and the rest of my family’s) needs.  

So, it’s time for a change.  Here are a few things you will see this year (at least if I can hold my resolutions down):

  • 2-3 posts a week, scheduled to come out around mid-morning.  I still need to play around with the days but you’ll start to see more of a regular pattern soon.
  • The posts will continue to have a primary focus on items of interest for Connecticut employers, recognizing that some stories of national significance have a local impact too. But the ordinary NLRB decison from Arkansas is just not something this blog can or should cover.
  • The posts will still try to answer the most important question for employers: How does this thing (a court decision, a new bill) impact employers? 
  • In place of additional posts, particularly on breaking news, I will be making more use of this blog’s Facebook page.   Facebook has taken a more prominent role for businesses and its time to move it into a more central position to keeping updated.  This blog will not chase the search engines for approval simply by having meaningless breaking news posts.
  • In addition, if you haven’t been following me on Twitter, now’s a good time. There’s already 3200 (!) of you doing so, but the more the merrier.  I tend to send Twitter updates a few times a day, mainly on Connecticut or employment law-related stories.  (But Red Sox fans be warned: Come baseball season, you may also see a Yankees post mixed in, in the evening or weekends.)
  • If you like something a little more different, we can also connect on Google+.  I’m planning on starting some employment law Hangouts later this month.  Watch for more details later this month.  You may also see a few more videos and webinars in place of posts too.
  • And finally, if you’re still a little tentative about social networks, we can always connect on LinkedIn.  (And if that is too much, well, then there’s always just the blog.)

Each of these outlets provides a more efficient way for you to keep updated on the information you’ve gleaned from this blog.   Put another way, this blog will serve as a home base for more analysis and leave the breaking news for the social media platforms. 

Change is never easy, but hopefully these changes will bring you the information you need for your business in a more direct way without having to rely on longer-form blog posts each day. 

Let me know what you think in the comments. Suggestions are always welcome.  Criticism is accepted too.

Happy New Year.

Britney Spare-Rib takes the lead

For those who are uninitiated, each month an employment law blog hosts a “carnival” with links to various posts from other blogs with a theme typically attached.  Candidly, it’s a relic from a bygone era before social media made sharing easy.  

But a carnival is a carnival (and my thanks to Eric Meyer of The Employee Handbook for organizing it).  And while it’s not quite as fun as pig races (which, if you haven’t been to, you surely must do in your lifetime) or as yummy as a Craz-E burger at the Big E this week, it’s still a thrill to host and share with you some great articles. Please click on the hyperlinks to visit some great employment law blogs.  

As longtime readers of the blog know, I’m a baseball fan. And not just a baseball fan, but a Yankees fan.  And not just a Yankees fan, but one who follows them obsessively.  And there’s nothing better this time of year than a pennant race (unless of course you’re the Yankees who had a 10 game lead in July and blew the whole thing that but that’s a post for another day. And speaking of losers, then you should get to know this Colorado professor who compared 9/11 victims to Nazis.  You cannot make this up, sadly.)

So for this month’s carnival, what could be more appropriate than a romp through Yankees history?

Yankee Stadium

History is filled with great Yankees. But right now we’re living with one of the greats — Derek Jeter.  He’s a mythical figure now (my friend Amanda Rykoff refers to his home runs as “#Jeterian” on Twitter.) He’s got a little flash but mostly he’s great because he plays the game hard, stays out of trouble, and understand that its the little things that count.  Employers that like to follow the rules (and who doesn’t), should be sure to get their documentation in order.  Remember, it’s the little things that matter.

Its also hard to imagine another living legend, Mariano Rivera playing for another team other than the Yankees.  He developed a pitch to perfection — the cutter — that you’d almost have to think was a trade secret — the type that would fall under a restrictive covenant.  Of course, if he wanted to play for another team, once his contract expires, he’s a free agent — able to operate without any “non-compete” clauses.  Of course, just because there’s a non-compete clause doesn’t mean it’s enforceable.  A court might even throw it out.  

Any list of great Yankees would be incomplete without Reggie Jackson who became so famous he had a candy bar named after him.  But, recently, Reggie got into trouble for speaking his mind a little too much about another Yankee great, Alex Rodriguez.  Because he is still doing some work for the Yankees in their front office (as opposed, of course, to their back office?), the Yankees had a few choice words of their own and asked Jackson to take some time off away from the team.  Speaking of things that you shouldn’t say in the workplace, political discussions are also a very bad idea.  So is calling another employee a “monkey” (but you knew that already, didn’t you?).

Whitey Ford may not be the first name that people think of when they think of legends, but he should be on any top 10 list.  He won 236 games as a Yankee (still a franchise record) and was so cool under fire that his nickname was “The Chairman of the Board.”  One executive who did not stay cool under pressure was Jason Selch who allegedly mooned two executives.  It cost him $2 million in contingency payments.  And no lawsuit can recover that.

Yogi Berra may be known now for his Yogi-isms (“Ninety percent of this game is half mental.”) but he’s widely regarded as one of the best catchers of all time.  Still, his quotes leave you scratching your head.  Did he really just say that? And what does it mean? Kind of like the recent decisions from the NLRB including one that suggests that employers can’t keep their confidential investigations, well, confidential.

If Yogi-isms are too tough to understand, maybe you prefer information to be presented in an infographic like the one that was done on the EEOC’s strategic plan?

2 months is a long time. About 56 baseball games can be played during that time.  Imagine if someone got a hit every game for 56 games? Actually, someone did. And yes, he’s a Yankee — Joe DiMaggio.  You might think DiMaggio is superhuman; his record is one of the most revered in all of sports. Yet even Joe DiMaggio is human; he got divorced from Marilyn Monroe.  Indeed, both of them relied on lawyers as these pictures show.  Of course, if you’re in human resources, knowing how to understand and evaluate what your legal department does is important in making the right decisions for the company.  Lawyers matter.

Perhaps the most famous Yankee of all time is Babe Ruth.  But you know what he had? A contract.   Of course, not every contract gets sold for nearly $1 million as his did back in 2005.  Contracts are an essential part of doing business.  And now, confidential clauses are become more prevalent (and if you want to know what they mean, you should click here too).

Staying healthy at work is more important than ever. And employers are helping employees stay healthy too.  However, even the best wellness programs can’t stop all disease. Indeed, employees who suffer from ALS are often healthy before hand.  Lou Gehrig — another great Yankee – was one such example.  He was the “Iron Man” until he was diagnosed with ALS.  Indeed, to many people, ALS is still better known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”.  But his legacy should be much greater than a disease.  He held the record for consecutive games played for decades, until Cal Ripken Jr. broke it.  If you don’t have Lou Gehrig’s disease – or any disability for that matter – that you’re not entitled to a reasonable accommodation — and you should probably be grateful too.

One player who used to get into trouble all the time was Mickey Mantle.  He admitted his hard living had hurt his playing and him personally.  But he was such a superstar that the Yankees never dreamed of terminating him.  If you’re going to do a termination meeting, you should also do it correctly. That’s probably an issue for another day. (Oh wait, it was.)  “The Mick” endeared himself to a lot of people, probably for apologizing when he screwed up. Apologies matter and “sorry” shouldn’t be the hardest word.

Now, I understand that the Yankees aren’t universally loved.  Heck, there’s even a show entitled “Damn Yankees” out there.  (Of course, if you use vulgarities like “damn” at work, you might not even be able to be fired — at least in Calgary.) But if rivalries get too heated in the workplace, it’s always important for human resources to investigate possible claims of workplace violence.  Certainly here in Connecticut, we’ve got plenty of workplaces loaded with both Yankees and Red Sox fans — yet we all seem to get along for the most part.

The Yankees are part of American history, like it or not.  (And I’m guessing “not” for Seth Borden of Labor Relations Today — and a big Red Sox fan.) But now, as this blog shows, they are part of Employment Law Blog Carnival history as well.

Mission accomplished.

 

 

Photo Courtesy of Library of Congress

Yesterday, the HR Examiner came out with Top 25 list of “Online Influencers” in Employment Law.  Through a complex formula, it purports to show who people listen to about employment law online.

Unlike Groucho Marx who famously said “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member”, I’m thankful to be on the list and think the list is a useful starting point for people looking to see who’s out there in the online world talking about employment law. 

But the list has a obvious shortcoming — nearly two thirds of the list are made up of non-lawyers. 

Back in 2009, I put together a list of 10 Twitter handles that you should consider following.  That list, though, didn’t focus just on employment lawyers.  And, like many of you, I use the internet differently than I did back then and listen and interact with different people.   

So, without using any fancy statistics or surveys, here is my brand new official list of ten employment lawyers who you should consider following online (besides, of course, yours truly.  I can be found on Twitter @danielschwartz here): 

  1. @jonhyman — Readers of this blog will know this name well.  Jon Hyman has run the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog for nearly the same time as I’ve been publishing this.   Great employment law insight, particularly for employers. 
  2. @mollydibi — Another familiar name, Molly DiBianca runs the Delaware Employment Law Blog and, as she describes herself, she’s a “genuinely nice person with an asymmetrical haircut.”  She also runs one of the best blogs around.  How’s that for a recommendation?
  3. @shborden — Never mind that he’s a Red Sox fan. Seth Borden runs the terrific Labor Relations Today blog and is a leading voice on, well, labor law issues.  He frequently practices in Connecticut too.
  4. @eric_b_meyer – Eric Meyer – also a member of Red Sox Nation — provides perhaps the most irreverant look at employment law with pithy comments to boot on  The Employer Handbook. If you’re looking for employment law with a bit of snark on the side, Eric’s got the area cornered.
  5.  @robineshea – Robin Shea is perhaps the best lawyer you’re not following online yet.  Her weekly blog posts at Employment & Labor Insider are longer than most, but well-researched and full of non-legalese. 
  6. @jeffreysnowak – Do you want FMLA Insights? Jeff Nowak is your guy. 
  7. @philipmiles – From the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania (ok, near State College — but really, have you tried to drive through Pennsylvania?), Philip runs the Lawffice Space blog and focuses on various cases. 
  8. @BrianDHallEsq – Brian Hall edits the Employer Law Report for Porter Wright.  While his tweets can be a little inconsistent at times (c’mon, Brian, get with the program), they are nearly always quite re-tweetable. 
  9. @jason_shinn – Jason Shinn’s tweets may not be prolific, but his Michigan Employment Law Advisor has lots of easy to understand and implement suggestions for all types of employers. 
  10. @employeeatty – Donna Ballman’s “Screw You Guys, I’m Going Home” blog may not seem like an obvious read, particularly for employers, but it is worth checking out. Plus, she’s a great curator of content on Twitter. 

This list is, of course, incomplete and, in many ways, arbitrary.  People from 2009 that I continue to follow include @rossrunkel and @manpowerblawg.  And people like @worklawyer or @chaifeldblum are certainly on my follow list too.

So perhaps I’ll do a list of ten MORE people to follow sometime soon that will include some non-lawyers (like Stephanie Thomas) ; I’m certain I’ve left some people out. In the meantime, add your suggestions to the comments below.

Popularity contests have never been my thing.  And asking for votes is even less my thing too.

But as I recently noted, the popular Sad City Hartford blog has nominated me for the “Hot in Hartford” 2012 contest.  It is a silly contest, as the blog authors readily concede, but a contest nonetheless. 

And for the next 24 hours, I’m up against popular WNPR radio host John Dankosky, in a one-on-one poll. 

As of this afternoon, just FIVE votes separated us.  Since I know that there are several hundred of you that visit this blog every day, if you took 30 seconds to vote, we could easily send a message that the law is greater than a talk show even if just a fraction of you voted.

(Put aside, for the moment, that I have great respect for John Dankosky and, having met him in person, he’s the real deal.  But all’s fair in battle.)

So, please click here and vote for the me and the blog.  (No registration required.)  And show that a lawyer can win a popularity contest after all.   

 

As I approach the three-year anniversary of this blog (stay tuned for more details), it’s certainly touching to receive accolades for this blog. 

Each year, LexisNexis “honors a select group of blogs that set the online standard for a given industry.” Amazingly, the Connecticut Employment Law Blog is a nominated candidates for the LexisNexis Top 25 Business Law Blogs of 2010.

The list is impressive.  I’m particularly fond of Doug Cornelius’ Compliance Building blog.  But in contests such as this, there is no room for compromise.  I need to enlist your help.

You see, apparently LexisNexis wants readers to voice their support of their favorite blogs.  Since Doug has already sent out a call to his readers to support his blog; I know readers of this blog can do better.

While Doug is willing to "sit back and take the consolation prize: the honor of being nominated", I think we have a shot to take this. Sure, we’re up against the WALL STREET JOURNAL, and HARVARD LAW SCHOOL, but…

Ok, I know we’re not fooling anyone, but if you’d like to say a good word about the blog, I’d be grateful.  Lexis Nexis invites you to comment on the announcement post at either of the following links:

To comment, you have to register. Registration is free and supposedly does not result in sales contacts (though I’d use one of your backup e-mail addresses just in case). The comment period for nominations ends on October 8, 2010. They don’t say how they will end up selecting the top 25 out of the nominees other based on their review and your comments.