Last year I talked about how the new era of sexual harassment claims was coming.  The open question was: Would the number of claims actually increase?

The answer to that is now known: Yes.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released its preliminary data regarding workplace harassment today. And it’s findings shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve been paying attention.

Among the notable pieces of data:

  • Charges filed with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment increased by more than 12 percent from FY 2017.
  • The EEOC recovered nearly $70M for victims of sexual harassment through administrative enforcement and litigation, up from $47.5M in FY2017.
  • Reasonable cause findings in harassment claims increased to nearly 1200, up from 900 in FY 2017.
  • And public interest is skyrocketing: The EEOC’s website traffic to its sexual harassment page more than doubled in the last year.

In Connecticut, the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities hasn’t yet released their statistics on their website.  In years past, it’s been released in the fall — so stay tuned for that. But I anticipate hearing much more from the CHRO this month.

The CHRO is celebrating its 75th anniversary with a whole host of programs including one on Overcoming Barriers in Employment (I’ll be speaking at that one — details soon) and a #MeToo and LGBT Panel Discussion as well.

Interest in sexual harassment cases and actual cases show no sign of slowing down.  If anything, I would argue that public consciousness and awareness of these issues are nearing all-time highs.

Employers should continue to review their policies and procedures in this area and take another look at the training they are providing.

Ten years ago today, I wrote about the then-Tenth Anniversary of one of the horrible events that made a lasting impact on Connecticut employers.

I recounted the Connecticut Lottery shootings that happened a decade earlier.

Today, marks 20 years. (The CT Mirror has another perspective here.)

The New York Times report of that event is still chilling in its matter of factness:

Angered about a salary dispute and his failure to win a promotion, a Connecticut Lottery accountant reported promptly to his job this morning, hung up his coat and then methodically stabbed and gunned down four of his bosses, one of whom he chased through a parking lot, before turning the gun on himself.

Since that time, we’ve had other workplace shootings in Connecticut including one even deadlier (Hartford Distributors) and, of course, the massacre in Sandy Hook.

I’m reminded of a post I did early on that was titled: Are there really any lessons to be learned from evil? In it, I suggested the answer was “perhaps” — if only because employers need to keep reviewing their workplace violence policies and keep figuring out ways to spot trouble before it arises.

Just in 2014 alone, there were over 400 workplace homicides nationwide reported to OSHA.

Indeed, it seems the rare case where workplace violence just pops up out of nowhere.

OSHA does have some resources on the subject — but many of them are starting to be dated. 

One of the more useful items was a set of guidelines issued in 2015 targeting healthcare and social service workers.

It calls on employers to develop workplace violence prevention programs from five building blocks:

  1. Management commitment and employee participation;
  2. Worksite analysis;
  3. Hazard prevention and control;
  4. Safety and health training, and
  5. Recordkeeping and program evaluation.

There are far more details in the report than a blog post could recap but for employers looking to reduce the risk of a workplace shooting at their facility, getting started on your own program is as good a place to start as any.

As we remember the victims of the Connecticut Lottery shooting, may we honor their memories to keep bringing change and safety to our workplaces.

I’ll never forget the day I drove into Newtown, Connecticut.  As NBC 30’s Gerry Brooks tweeted this morning: How could you?

It was probably the first time I had made my way to that town outside of Danbury.

But that wasn’t the reason I remember that day.

It was the empty hearse outside a church.

Outside a Newtown church

It was the massive flag on the history Newtown flagpole at half-mast, blowing in the wind on a crisp December day.

It was the countless makeshift memorials and signs reading “Pray for Newtown” that dotted the road.

And it was days after one of the worst events in Connecticut and in the nation’s history.

Today marks five years since that awful, despicable day in Newtown when 26 children and adults were shot and killed in Newtown.

And in the days afterwards, I went to Newtown to deliver dozens upon dozens of gift cards that my wife and I collected in 48 hours after that tragedy from friends, friends of friends, and others.

Our gift card donation

At the time, I didn’t mention the amount here. It was too soon to the tragedy.  I noted in a post just days afterwards that there was a tangible hole you could feel in Connecticut.

It’s still there.

But with time, I recognized that it’s important to acknowledge what we can do when we work together.

In just 48 hours, with nothing more than a few Facebook status updates, back in 2012 my wife and I collected $11,000 worth of gift cards in $25 to $100 increments.

It was so overwhelming that I asked an accounting firm to assist to make sure we tracked each card.

Things were so chaotic that I remember walking in to the administrative offices not quite sure what to do next.  I don’t think anyone there knew either. This was just before the massive relief funds were getting started.

I never did hear what happened to those gift cards that were destined to teachers.  At the time, it was thought that they could be used for supplies that the teachers might need.

I think back a lot to that time. The people I’ve met since. The work that everyone has done to help that community.

Five years later, and it still feels like yesterday.

And it still feels so painful.

My posts on the subject can be found here, here, here and here.  For more on contributions, please check out Sandy Hook Promise.  

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.)

HallofFame200pxV32007 seems like yesterday.

And yet, eight years after I started this blog and over 1800 posts later (and a Hall of Fame entry), I’m pretty sure 2007 WASN’T yesterday.

So for this year’s anniversary post, I thought I would capture what I think are some of the biggest storylines from the last eight years.  This isn’t definitive, but there are a few things that stand out.

1.  Social Media – Well this first one was easy, right? What’s amazing is that I didn’t even talk about Facebook and its impact on employers until fall 2008.  In that post, I talked about whether employers should use those sites in their hiring practices.  Since then, there seems to be no corner of the workplace that hasn’t been touched by social media. And yet, I’m also struck by the fact that there is a perceptible sign that we’re seeing this area mature. Less discussions about whether to have a social media policy. And less handwringing about whether social networking site posts are discoverable.  Yes, there are still unsettled areas on this  — the NLRB’s guidance continues to shift — but social media isn’t nearly as foreign as it was back in 2007.

2. The Return of the NLRB – Any discussion of the last eight years certainly must discuss the NLRB under the Obama Presidency.  There are those who complain about the political nature of the agency, but it’s always been a creature of various Presidential administrations.  But what we’ve seen over the last few years in particular is use of cases and regulations to chart new ground (or reverse older ground) in elections, workplace communications, and, last month, joint employer status. As such, we’ve seen union membership increase in several states, like Connecticut.  Make no mistake: On this day after Labor Day, unions and labor law have received a big old proverbial shot in the arm the last several years.  The election in 2016 will be a pivotal year in determining whether this changes continue.

3. The Battle Over Disabilities – True, there are plenty of other noticeable changes since 2007, but one that barely gets mentioned is the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act.  It was one of the last employment law bills signed by President Bush and became effective January 1, 2009.  The Act changed the debate on litigation involving employees with disabilities. Instead, the Act said that courts should interpret the act to provide the coverage to individuals “to the maximum extent permitted.”  For example, previously, courts and employers had to determine a person’s disability including any mitigating measures that the individual had such as prosthetics, medications or hearing aids. Now, employers and courts must ignore those measures.   As a result, ADA cases have moved from “threshold” issues (whether the person has a disability) to “liability” issues (whether the person was actually discriminated against).

While EEOC disability charges increased markedly from 2008 to 2010 – that probably had more to do with the economy than anything else. Claims have levelled off since then and have even dropped from their peak in 2012.

A lot has changed since I started this blog in 2007.  I thank you all for your continued readership.  We’ll see what the next year brings.

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?

So, now that I’ve finished up the first five years, it’s time to think about what’s in store over the next five years.  It’d be easy to punt on the subject, but I’m going to take a crack at it.  Here are some ideas on where we’ll be in another five years.  Check back in five years to see if it comes to fruition.

  • It’s hard to imagine now, but we’ll be on another president (or two) by 2017.  There’ll be some additional turnover in Congress as well.  Will the do-nothing Congress (at least as it relates to employment law) of the last two years spill over? Or will Washington break the gridlock. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine that we’ll see wide-ranging changes to the nation’s employment laws. What might we see? ENDA — the bill that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation — might be one bill by then.  And perhaps a change to the minimum wage as part of a compromise on a budget.
  • Predicting an end to the wage-and-hour lawsuit craze seems somewhat foolish at this stage.  But let’s suggest that the economy will get better over the next five years.  Higher wages = happier employees.  And with happier employees, comes a reduction in lawsuits filed.  So, the trend may not end, but perhaps we’ve seen the peak over the last decade.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act was amended in 2008.  It’s only been recently that we’re starting to see a slight uptick in cases under those claims. I suspect that as this law gets flushed out more, we’ll see some more cases looking to push the envelope.  So, the next wave of ADA cases may be beginning now.
  • Settlements of cases will continue to increase.  The costs of litigation in the employment law area are quite high when compared with the overall “value” of the case.  (Compare an employment case with the epic Apple-Samsung patent dispute and you get the idea).  So, look for more arbitration and more mediation.  And more companies will adopt mandatory arbitration policies so long as courts bless them.
  • The next next technology wave (perhaps with Google glasses?) will take over.  As social media continues to pervade the workplace culture, we could see more internal social networks and even greater pervasiveness of technology.  Everyone is chasing the next Instagram but companies that don’t understand how technology is changing the way we recruit employees and manage the workforce are going to suffer greatly in this next wave.

So those are my fearless predictions.  What about you? Any trends you see out on the horizon?

Today marks the official five year anniversary of the Connecticut Employment Law Blog.

Wow.

My very first posts here, here and here, seem like a long time ago.   

But you don’t get to five years without a bunch of people to thank.   They include:

  • my current law firm partners at Pullman & Comley, LLC who have come around to the idea that social media can be a useful endeavor for a lawfirm;
  • my former partners at Epstein, Becker & Green, P.C. who supported the blog at its inception (and who now have a whole bunch of blogs of their own). 
  • My wife and family, who have also been extremely supportive, even when it seemed like a crazy idea back then. 
  • The folks at LexBlog (and founder Kevin O’Keefe), who have been terrific about the support that they provide to customers like me. 
  • E-mail and RSS subscribers like you, who have provided me with tips, comments, and suggestions over the years.   

There are many others for sure, and hopefully you know who you are too. 

How long will this blog continue? Who knows. When I started this, I said I would stop when I ran out of things to talk about or when it became hard to write.  That hasn’t happened yet.

The blog has changed a bit from my original vision — as these types of endeavors so often do.  But I hope it continues to provide useful and practical information for employers in Connecticut. 

I still view it as a work in progress, even after all these years, so if you have suggestions on general topics you’d like to see covered (I can’t provide specific advice on legal issues in this platform), feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Thank you again for all of your support.

As I continue to look back at five years of blogging, I’m still amazed at what happened on October 7, 2008.

But before we get to October, the story starts back in late August 2008 when I was guest blogging over at Overlawyered.com — one of the oldest law blogs around.  I posted a story about a lawsuit filed by some wrestlers who claimed that they were treated as independent contractors, rather than employees.

The story was popular at the time.

But it paled in comparison to my post back here in October.  You see, the employer filed a motion to dismiss in federal court.

Attached to that motion? A copy of the actual booking contracts for several wrestlers which most people had never seen.  I downloaded those contracts and ended up posting a link to them on my site.

No big deal, I thought.  Until three days later, the post was picked up by various wrestling fan sites. And went viral. In a hurry.  By day’s end, the blog had received over 20,000 visits.

While  other posts have been popular from time to time, nothing has quite achieved that notoriety.

Last year, I did experience the force of the internet again with a video I posted about Tropical Storm Irene on YouTube. Although it didn’t make it to the blog and wasn’t quite as popular as the “Call Me Maybe” song (244 MILLION views??), that video alone has garnered nearly 100,000 views. 

So, the next time someone asks how to attract viewers to their site, here’s my advice: Have a video of wrestlers. Preferably lip-syncing to “Call Me Maybe”.  In a storm.

This week, this blog celebrates it’s fifth anniversary (on Wednesday, more specifically). All this week, I’m going to look back on a post or reflect on this blog through the years.

Today, I’ll address what the biggest impact has been on employment law over the last five years.

(Hint: It’s not the Employee Free Choice Act –– remember that? That DOES seem like a long time ago).

And while there are certainly a batch of runners up to this question for employers in Connecticut (President Obama’s election, Paid Sick Leave, ADA Amendments Act), there is one very simple answer: Social Media.

Undoubtedly, social media’s infiltration into the workplace continues to have lasting impacts.

My first post talking about social media in detail was in October 2007, where I asked employers whether their employees would have enough common sense to censor themselves when blogging or “micro-blogging”. (What a quaint and short-lived term that was.)

It wasn’t until September 2008, that Facebook and other social networking sites starting making their way into discussions regarding electronic discovery or background checks.  The debate back then was whether those sites should be “off-limits” (answer: no).

Over the following year or two, I’d cover social media from time to time.  I even claimed a bit of Facebook fatigue from writing about it.  I also had suggested that employers develop a social media policy (imagine that).

But it wasn’t until November 2010 when the first real “Facebook firing” case in Connecticut went viral.  Since that time, discussions about social media have dominated presentations and have forced employers to think about these issues in a much more comprehensive way.

Still, today we are only in the early stages of understanding how the shift to social media and mobile technology is really impacting the workplace.  It continues to outpace the speed in which many employers can react leaving most to struggle when discussing the issue.

A prediction over the next five years: I believe that employers will start to catch up to the technology and the law will catch up with employers. Already we are starting to see some states address social media password protection, for example.

But as I look back on posts 5 years ago, I realize how truly futile predicting the future can be.

So, what do you think? What’s been the biggest impact on employment law and why?