If you are a regular reader, you've probably noticed that I haven't done any predictions in the past few years. Because how could anything have possibly been predicted? But employment law is becoming more predictable now, and I think it's time to take a deep breath and do my Cassandra bit. Here are my predictions for 2022:
1. More pro-employee NLRB: We've already seen this with some very pro-employee, pro-union decisions coming down regarding Amazon, Starbucks, and other unionization attempts. As the year progresses, we'll see NLRB cracking down on employer retaliation and union busting efforts. We'll also be back to seeing more pro-employee decisions on non-union "concerted activity" retaliation.
2. EEOC will re-energize: They were cut to the bone in budget and staffing under the last administration, so it's taking a bit for them to bounce back. They'll also focus on issues like sexual orientation that got pushed aside under the last administration. I hope they'll fully staff the mediation divisions, because those folks are really terrific at settling cases.
3. Supremes go anti-employee: Unfortunately, while the agencies will be more pro-employee, the courts are going to take a sharp anti-employee turn. Look for really pro-management decisions on the federal level.
4. Paralysis on noncompetes: Even though President Biden issued an executive order asking the federal agencies to focus on noncompetes, there's little the agencies can do without legislation. Congress won't do anything. Neither will the Florida legislature. Maybe some pro-employee states will limit or ban noncompetes. Some have done it already. Will more follow?
5. Sexual harassment crackdown: With President Biden's order criminalizing sexual harassment in the military, the issue will get more attention. Where the military goes, usually goes the rest of the nation, so we should see some more crackdown on sexual harassers.
6. COVID, COVID, COVID: The virus will continue to be an issue. OSHA will continue to try to get employers to maintain safe workplaces. The Supremes and the right wing will continue to fight. Florida will continue to be the Wild West.
7. More unions: As NLRB becomes more employee-friendly, we'll see more unionization attempts. Once Amazon is forced to allow a union (and it will happen this year), employees of other workplaces previously thought impossible will begin efforts to unionize. Some will succeed. The Great Resignation has made employees more conscious of working conditions. They'll continue to fight to be treated fairly. Union busters will make a fortune this year as employers try to fight back.
8. Disability discrimination: Now that employees realize that it's easy to work remotely, and now that employers want employees back in the office, we'll see more disability discrimination cases. Employees who seek remote work as a reasonable accommodation will face resistance, but employers will lose the argument that granting the accommodation is a hardship. After all, they had a year or more of remote work very successfully.
9. Zoom: I don't know about you, but I love Zoom. Having to do a 2 - 3 hour round trip for a 5 minute hearing is a huge waste of resources. Judges like it because they have more control. For non-evidentiary hearings, Zoom will remain in many courtrooms. We'll also continue to see more Zoom depositions and mediations, which work very well on that platform. This will make attendance by employees much less onerous. They won't miss as much work, for one. In employment law, it will be a huge benefit. I find that employees are way more likely to settle in a Zoom mediation where they feel comfortable and more relaxed. Employers will also continue to utlize Zoom or similar platforms for meetings rather than having employees commute from remote locations.
10. Anti-employee laws: We'll see some extreme anti-employee laws in red states as the right wing pushes to be more and more extreme. Expect some laws attacking LGBT folks, abortion, marijuana, protests, and free speech. Some of these laws will give employers extra protection against lawsuits for terminating employees for their activities outside of work.
Well, that's about all I think I can predict for now. Let's see how I do. It's still crazy out there, but hopefully things will get a bit more normal as 2022 progresses.