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.

Long time readers of the blog may be getting a feeling of deja vu with the title of the post. After all, it was about two years ago that I wrote about Google Wave.  That product was going to change the world way we communicate. (Fortunately, I didn’t make such bold predictions, other than to point out that lawyers couldn’t ignore new technologies — like Facebook and Twitter —  forever. )

Turns out  Google Wave was a pretty big failure.

Consider "adding" Google+

But don’t let that misstep cloud your judgment on Google’s latest innovation, called “Google+”.

What is Google+? It’s a new social networking platform. (Here’s a great explanation.)

Will it change the legal landscape? My fellow Connecticut blogger, Ryan McKeen, thinks so. After having been on it for a week or so, I’m not yet so sure.  Let’s just say it has potential:  Kind of a hybrid between Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  It’s at least worth checking out.

Which leads me to employers.  Google+ isn’t something to worry about. Yet.  Only early adopters such as myself are on it now.  It’s still a long way away from mass adoption.

But it does portend a new wave of innovation on social networking and the developing “war” between Facebook and Google for social networking supremacy.  Already on Google+, you can track information through “sparks” or use video “hangouts” to talk with people who are in your circle.  And people who have been looking for alternative to Facebook now have one.

In other words, despite an employer’s efforts to control information, Google+ may lead to yet another wave of lesser privacy and more collaboration. And more opportunities for less-than-noble employees to pass along your company secrets.

The employment law landscape has undergone rapid changes over the last five years.  Employers who haven’t taken the time to understand them, are now behind the curve of where many of the employees are.   Google+ is just the latest reminder that employers who continue to ignore this new technology aren’t just missing out on the benefits of it, but they are doing so at their peril.

(By the way, feel free to follow the blog on Facebook by clicking here. We need four more followers to get a custom URL so every “like” helps!)

Among the things we take for granted now is that information about anything and everything has always been available.

(Indeed, if you want to really take a trip back in history, read this article about Time’s pick of the Personal Computer for its Man of the Year award in 1982.)

Google has been at the forefront of making information available and this week, it released another fascinating tool.

Google has taken the 500 billion words it has pulled from its Google Books project and made the data available to anyone here.  The New York Times has full details here.

So, for example, you can see that the usage of the word "Hartford" peaked around 1939 and has been dropping off ever since.

I thought it might be fun to look at a few employment law-related terms to see if any trends could be ascertained from 1920-2008.  The results are not scientific by any stretch, but it’s a fun exercise nonetheless.

So, for example, comparing the terms "Title VII" and "sexual harassment" shows that books referencing Title VII peaked in the late 1970s and have been declining since then. (See the first chart above.)

However, books referencing sexual harassment skyrocketed in the 1991-1992 time frame quickly passing Title VII in interest. But that phrase has also been in decline since peaking in the mid-to-late 1990s.

And what happened in the early 1990s to spark interest in "sexual harassment"? Why, the Anita Hill/Justice Thomas hearings.  

Or compare the use of the terms "overtime" and "labor unions" (reflected in the second chart).  You see peak usage of overtime in the mid-to-late 1940s.  

Similarly, you see "labor unions" usage peaking in the mid-1940s and a slow, steady decline after that point.   Given the decline in the influence of unions in the last several decades, it’s probably not a surprise that the use of the term has also declined.

Comparing terms like "diversity", "discrimination", "harassment", and "affirmative action" (the third chart) also shows a peak usage of all those terms in the late 1990s.  Interestingly, "diversity" overtook "discrimination" in 1993 in prevalence of use.   (I should note that it is unclear what the reasons for the decline are; the data merely shows trends from this set.)

Got your own suggestions of terms to search related to employment law? Post them in the comments below and let’s see if we can ascertain any additional trends from this data.