At Harry Potter Studios outside London, UK this year
At Harry Potter Studios outside London, UK this year

Well, we’ve come a long way in a year, right?

Last year at the holidays, I shared my family’s personal story of my wife’s cancer diagnosis.  The outpouring from readers, friends, and colleagues was tremendous.

So, I thought you were due for an update.  My wife is doing much better and continues to have a good prognosis.  It’s been a challenging 2015 but we know we are fortunate right now to be talking about the future.

As you might imagine, what we’ve been through has certainly put a lot of things in focus. It’s a cliche for sure, but there’s truth there as well.  And going back to the same routine just hasn’t seemed right. So, we’ve made subtle changes thus far but for me, writing this blog has taken a clear back seat.

I could debate the reasons why. For example, I have less patience for discussing cases in which someone makes a lawsuit out of something trivial.  But it also boils down to writer’s motivation too. Right now, life is too precious to write 5 days a week.

What will 2016 bring?  I’m not sure, but I’m looking forward to it.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours and I hope you have good health and happiness in the new year.

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.

Merry Christmas

As we approach the end of the year, I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas (if you celebrate) and a Happy New Year.

We’ve all been through a lot this year (and last year was no picnic either) and this past week in particular. So I wish you health, happiness and solutions to your most vexing HR questions in the upcoming one.

The blog is going to take some deserved (if I may say so) some time off.  I hope you are able to do the same.  I’ll be back in the new year with some changes in store for you.  But just like the presents under the tree, you’ll have to be a little patient.

Peace.

Today is a memorable day. For some, its Rosh Hashanah – the start of the Jewish New Year and one of the holiest days of the year.  It is common to wish everyone a happy and sweet new year.  (If you really want to get into it, get a fresh Connecticut apple and dip it in some honey today too.  My preference is the Macouns or the Honeycrisp ones)

But for many others, today is a big day too. It’s the start of the NFL season. And along with that, the start of many "fantasy football" leagues. 

Fantasy Football, for those unfamiliar with it, is a game in which participants (called "owners") are arranged into a competitive league, earning “fantasy points” by using the statistics of real football players. 

In some cases, the players pool money for a winner, but in many many other cases, it is done for glory and pride.  (Disclosure: I am participating in a no-money league this year.)  Look at any sports website and you’ll see tons of pages devoted to it.

But this is an employment law blog — what does fantasy football have to do with employers? Plenty.

Last year, for example, several employees were fired for running a big fantasy football operation out of the workplace.  In that case, the employer deemed the league to be a form of "gambling" that was prohibited by company rules.  As I said back then, that criticism seemed a bit over-the-top and no more upsetting than the Super Bowl or March Madness Office Pools that dot the landscape.

A better way to regulate such pools may be to say that such activities cannot interfere with work or use company resources.  As a result, employers may want to think about the following guidelines as fantasy football season begins again:

  • Set up clear rules for your employees; if participation in fantasy leagues or office pools is prohibited, say so. And then enforce that rule evenly.
  • If those types of activities aren’t prohibited, make it clear that participation in those activities during work time is not allowed. Restricting off duty conduct is — for the most part — well outside the bounds for an employer to consider.
  • Consider "blessing" such activities in a non-monetary fashion. Some employers have small office gatherings around some sports event to build morale and teamwork.

Again, I’m not advocating turning a blind eye towards employees who are misusing company resources.  This is work, after all. But setting up clear expectations to your employees and enforcing those rules evenly, will ensure that if problems do develop, they’ll be handled in a fair and appropriate manner.