In this week’s Connecticut Law Tribune, I filed my annual “forecast” of employment law for 2013. As with the weather forecasts, it is subject to change on a moment’s notice. So drink your “tea” with a grain of salt.

So, last year, I brought out my trusted Magic 8-Ball to make my 2012 predictions. Looking back on those predictions, it did pretty well. It’s only flaw was suggesting that new NLRB notice rules would go into effect in 2012; a court injunction prevented that from happening.

But alas this year, the Magic 8-Ball was blown away by Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, I’ve been catching up on the Harry Potter series and the art of reading tea leaves.

Will our tasseography be as accurate? Only Divination Teacher Sybill Trelawney knows for sure.

Tea Cup #1 — Wand

Reading the Tea Leaves

After the first cup of green tea, the tea leaves seem to leave an imprint of a magic wand.

The horrific Newtown shooting will surely be a defining moment here in the state, much like 1983 Stratford toll booth crash or even the 1944 Hartford circus fire.  

What might this mean for employment law? There will likely be a renewed appetite for legislative solutions to incidents of violence. And keeping violence out of the workplace and schools is no doubt going to be an important area to focus on.

While the legislature will undoubtedly want to wave a magic wand with legislation to make it all better, sadly, even they know that it’ll take more than a wand.

Tea Cup #2 – Tweeting Bird

Our second cup of black tea leaves a bird – surely, a symbol of Twitter.

Are you tired of social media yet? No? Good, because expect more stories about employees who behave badly online and employers who overreact to a tweet about their business that no one saw anyway.

2012 certainly brought more noise to the issue. What it still lacks though, is defining clarity. The NLRB issued various decisions, many of which erred on the side of the employee, saying that employee use of Facebook is a protected concerted activity.

Of course, that presumes a level of sophistication by most employees who are not using Facebook to “rally the troops”; they use it to share an anecdote about their day or to rant about a bad day at work.

I sense two developments relating to social media.

First, I see more legislation restricting employers from violating employee privacy. Already, Maryland and California passed new laws prohibiting employers from seeking Facebook passwords. Connecticut can’t be that far behind.

Second, I forecast some judicial clarity on “protected” activity and appropriate employer policies. As these cases wind their way through the NLRB, we are due to have courts finally add their perspective. Expect some circuit splits to develop as to what should be protected and how employers can react.

Continue Reading Reading the Tea Leaves for Employment Law in 2013 (Harry Potter Edition)