The new and improved Connecticut Bar Association Annual Meeting went off without a hitch on Monday, chock full of information about labor & employment law.  Besides my seminar on the intersection of social media and employment law, the CBA held a forum in the afternoon on the "Practice of Labor & Employment Law in the Current Economy: Practitioners’ Perspectives".

There were numerous people on the panel including two from large national employment law boutiques, two who commonly represent employees, one who represents unions, and two government officials from the NLRB and the Connecticut Department of Labor.

The discussion ranged from the challenges presented by new trends in billing and rate structures; marketing and client development; the impact on insurance in employment cases and the public entity as your client or adversary.

Among the trends that have spotted is a somewhat surprising one: More representation cases are being filed at the NLRB, particularly in the Connecticut region. Indeed, the head of the NLRB’s Regional Office described the current environment as "boom times" for the agency.

He indicated that 3 new attorneys were hired and that they anticipated further changes and work as a result of a new General Counsel likely to start late this year.  After all, the General Counsel will set the tone by deciding what cases he or she wants to bring before the board. 

Why the increase? Part of it stems from the fact that because people cannot get new jobs quickly, they seem to want to try to have more of an impact in their current jobs.  In addition, the perception that the NLRB was a place to be avoided has shifted dramatically and the agency is now viewed as a place where complaints will be heard and perhaps looked at with a favorable eye. 

Even if Congress never passes the Employee Fair Choice Act (EFCA) bill, the NLRB is still likely to make changes to its internal procedures.  One example is a new poster that will be required effective June 21, 2010 for all federal contractors. It is quite possible that a version like this will be rolled out to all private employers by the start of 2011.  

Nevertheless, this represents a cautionary tale for employers in Connecticut. Although just seven percent of employees at private companies are unionized, the uptick in cases at the NLRB means that the labor union concept is far from dead. Indeed, don’t be surprised if the next few years show a bit of a reversal of fortunes for unions here.

I’ll talk about some of the other trends in an upcoming post or two.