Employers and their lawyers spend a lot of time focused on current developments and medium term trends, as they must. But after you have worked in employment law for a while, it is interesting to stop and reflect every now and then on the inexorable long term trends that shape our workplaces. (And that is actually pretty useful in effectively addressing shorter term issues.) Two stand out for me: 1. Regardless of how one spins year to year blips, private sector unions have consistently declined over the course of many decades. 2. The consistent increase of statutory protections for employees since Title VII was passed in 1964. Battles over particular laws on the federal, state and local level aside, over time the categories of people protected by discrimination laws consistently increases. While not quite as enduring yet, the increasing important of home to work seems to be one of those trends, so this week H is for Home. The 40 hour week at the employer’s fixed location that was the predominant working arrangement at the dawn of employment law in the first third of the 20th century has over the past few decades become increasingly less common for a combination of many reasons:
- Technology allows more working flexibility.
- Changing family structures demand more flexibility.
- Economic pressure pushes employers to seek more flexibility and, frankly, to minimize the employee benefits costs that tend to come with full-time employees.