In 1969, Zager and Evans sang “In the Year 2525.” If you are smiling, you too probably have looked in a mirror and asked: how did that happen?
Did you ever wonder what the employment world will look like in 2525? Perhaps the following:
- The NLRB will help unions which are failing to thrive by trying to make employers post union-marketing notices to drum up business for them.
- The DOL will create a smart phone application to help employees track their time so that they can more easily sue their employers.
- The EEOC will interpret the ADA so broadly that even shy bladder syndrome (the ability to “pee on cue”) may be a disability. While I have no doubt that Shy Bladder Syndrome is a real syndrome, I also have no doubt that illegal drug users are likely to develop bashful bladders in need of assertiveness training.
- California will pass 22 employment laws in one year.
Oh no, we don't have to wait until 2525. All of the above have happened in the last year or so.
If this is where we are now, can it go any further in 2525? Of course it can. Consider:
- The Unconscious Dreaming Pay Protection Act. Why shouldn't the unconscious get paid for its hard work? And, should not there be a higher minimum wage since, as we all know, the unconscious does the heavy lifting?
- The Social Media Right to Bash Your Employer Act. Why should employees be dependent on the NLRB for protection? We need to create a private cause of action so employees can go right into federal court. Of course, it’s not about the money. Just knowing you have hurt your employer’s brand, pushed away customers and put your colleagues’ jobs at risk if customers flee should be satisfaction enough.
- The California Right to Choose Your Manager Act. Of course, the relationship will be at will so that employees can change managers at any time and for any or no reason and with or without prior notice. And, there will be no exceptions to this at-will principle!
- The Endangered Species Union Act. All new hires must be given union authorization cards “for their consideration” when they are asked to complete their portion of the I-9. After all, it is possible that they might miss whatever union notice the employer may be required to post.
As much as we try to do the right thing, not all employers do. Just as there are good and bad employees, there are good and bad employers. And, there is no question that we need the law to protect employees from wrongful conduct.
But overly aggressive plaintiffs’ lawyers and government agencies continue to push the boundaries of the law. And that does not always benefit employees.
As employers pay more to their lawyers, the reality is that there may be less money for their employees. Just as important: if everything is a legal issue, then we risk trivializing the important purposes underlying the laws. If everything is harassment, then nothing is harassment.
I hope we don’t have to wait until 2525 to find balance in protecting employees but without turning the workplace into what sometimes feels like a legal war zone. Moderation and balance are not inconsistent with protecting and enforcing employee rights. The extremes are, to me, extremely scary.
But, since we won’t be here in 2525, let’s continue the conversation at the Annual Conference. I will be speaking on the Year 2525 at Monday at 10:45 AM. I hope to see you there! Travel safely.
This blog should not be construed as legal advice or as pertaining to specific factual situations.