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Monday, January 19, 2015

What I See In My Crystal Ball For Employment Law In 2015

So far I've been pretty prescient in my annual predictions, so better pay attention here. My predictions for what will happen on the employment law scene in 2015 are:

1. Intern sexual harassment: With Broward County moving to develop an ordinance to ban sexual harassment of interns, can Miami-Dade County be far behind? While I predict a bill will be introduced in the Florida legislature, Republicans in charge of both houses and the governorship will block it. Who can be in favor of sexual harassment of our teenagers? I'm guessing pretty much anyone who has an elephant as their symbol. On the national front, we'll see a move afoot in other states to pass a law similar to the ones passed in California, New York, Oregon and Illinois.

2. Micro-unions: As the NLRB flexes its muscles to ease union organizing, and big unions like AFL-CIO pushing organization of smaller units, the union movement will slowly start coming back swinging. Employees who realize they have been getting the short end of the stick will start organization efforts of smaller groups. Micro-unions will start popping up more this year.

3. Minimum wage: 2014 was a huge year for minimum wage increases, and employees will continue fighting for raises in 2015. It won't be as big a year for increases because it isn't an election year, but we'll see some more states and local governments raise the minimum wage to over $10/hour.

4. Obama as employee advocate: Now that he has nothing to lose, President Obama will continue to use executive orders to push for employee rights. He has just penned expansions to federal employee and federal contractor employees' minimum wage and medical leave, and to help immigrant-employees. He'll do everything he can with his pen to expand worker rights. His push to pass a paid sick leave law will fail. Members of Congress with elephantitis will do everything they can to make sure workers remain oppressed.

5. Gay marriage: Having reached the tipping point with a solid majority of states legalizing gay marriage, we'll continue to see marriage equality expand. This may not be the year for complete legalization, but it's all over but the shouting for pro-discrimination folks.

6. Marijuana: Legalized marijuana and medical marijuana will continue to expand. Employees who use marijuana for medical purposes will continue to get fired as employers fail to wake up to the fact that marijuana actually helps people and isn't as bad as, say, codeine or benadryl for workers on duty.

7. Republican roll-back: The President will have to exercise his veto pen lots this year, as Republicans try to roll back worker rights. Look for very excited Rs to try to roll back the Fair Labor Standards Act, National Labor Relations Act, ObamaCare, safety laws, discrimination laws, and pretty much every pro-employee law they can think of. They long for the days of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The President will promptly veto all such attempts, which will egg them on to even more extreme positions.

8. Noncompetes come into question: With Jimmy Johns and other minimum wage noncompete agreements coming to light, legislators are starting to wake up to the abuses that these agreements impose on employees. We'll start to see some antitrust investigations of the more extreme noncompete agreements. There will be another effort in Massachusetts to ban them, but it will likely fail as both parties cave to employer interests. This won't be the year states start banning or limiting them, but eyes will start to open.

9. Gridlock: Not difficult at all to predict will be that zero will actually happen on the national level. ENDA, Civil Rights Tax Fairness Act, FAMILY Act, and Arbitration Fairness Act are just some of the laws that will die a horrible death this year. It will be at least two years before anything at all can get done in the way of national legislation.

10. Ban the box: More states and local governments will ban employers from asking about arrests and convictions on applications, and will limit the use of convictions found in background checks to those that are actually relevant to the job sought.

That's all for this year's predictions. How do you think I will do? What are your predictions? Tell me about your thoughts in the comments section.

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I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.